Russian force responsible for defending Moscow partially destroyed in Ukraine, UK says

The highly regarded 1st Guards Tank Army may take years to rebuild after being 'severely degraded' by fighting

Russian forces have sustained losses after a counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops in the north of the country. AFP.
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A Russian Army grouping charged with defending Moscow has been partially destroyed and could take years to rebuild after withdrawing from action during a recent Ukrainian counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region, British intelligence has claimed.

The 1st Guards Tank Army suffered “heavy casualties” in the initial phase of the invasion, the UK's Ministry of Defence said.

The unit — one of the most elite in Russia's armed forces — has been charged with leading counter-attacks in the case of a war with Nato.

Now that it has been “severely degraded”, Russia’s conventional force designed to counter the western alliance is badly weakened, the British defence ministry said.

The revelation comes after Ukraine recaptured a large part of north-eastern territory from Russia in recent days, which the ministry estimates to be at least twice the size of Greater London.

Ukraine has sustained its lightning advance because its forces are highly motivated and its operation is well planned, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said on Tuesday.

“The aim is to liberate the Kharkiv region and beyond — all the territories occupied by the Russian Federation. Fighting is continuing [in Kharkiv region]. It is still early to say full [Ukrainian] control has been established over Kharkiv region,” Ms Malyar said.

A senior US military official said Russia had pulled many of its troops back over the border. That means potentially abandoning the sole railway line that had sustained its operations in Ukraine's north-east.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on the West to speed up deliveries of weapons systems as his country's troops move to consolidate control over the north-east.

Washington and its allies have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in weapons that Kyiv says have helped to limit Russian gains.

In a video address late on Monday, Mr Zelenskyy said Ukraine and the West should “strengthen co-operation to defeat Russian terror”.

“Above all, speed up supplies of anti-aircraft systems,” he said.

Washington announced its latest weapons programme for Ukraine last week, including Himars anti-rocket systems, having previously sent Nasmas surface-to-air missile systems capable of shooting down aircraft.

Mr Zelenskyy said Ukraine had recaptured about 6,000 square kilometres of territory, a sliver of Ukraine's overall land mass of about 600,000 square km. The recaptured land is about the same size as the combined area of the West Bank and Gaza.

Russia took control of about a fifth of Ukraine since February 24, when its troops invaded.

The retreat did not stop Russia from pounding Ukrainian positions, however. Early on Tuesday, it shelled the city of Lozova in the Kharkiv region, killing three people and wounding nine, said regional governor Oleh Syniehubov.

The Nikopol area, which is across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, was shelled six times during the night but no casualties were immediately reported, said regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko.

Continued shelling has left Europe’s largest nuclear station in a precarious position.

Mr Zelenskyy specifically criticised Russia for taking aim at energy infrastructure in its attacks over the past days, saying that hundreds of Ukrainians had been left without power.

Updated: September 13, 2022, 10:17 AM