British military intelligence says Russia may have found new Ukraine attack axis

Bakhmut is 'the most difficult situation' facing Ukrainian forces, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says

War damage in the town of Bakhmut, Ukraine, the site of recent heavy battles with Russian troops. AP
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British military intelligence says Russia may have found a new axis of attack closer to Kyiv, as forces continue to hammer Bakhmut.

Overnight, Russia again attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made single-use drones, with four Shaheds launched from the north. All were shot down by the Ukrainian air force.

On February 27, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence confirmed it had shot down 11 Shahed one-way attack uncrewed aerial vehicles (OWA UAV, or kamikaze drones) out of 14 that were launched.

Nine were shot down in the vicinity of Kyiv airspace, according to the latest Ministry of Defence daily intelligence update.

It said: “Due to the vector of the attack, these Shahed-UAVs were [most] likely launched from the Bryansk Oblast, Russia. Previously, the only observed launch site since mid-December 2022 was from the Krasnodar region, across the Sea of Azov.

Residents look at parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle that Ukrainian authorities believe is an Iranian-made drone.  Reuters

“A second launch site would give the Russians a different axis of attack, closer to Kyiv.

“This is likely to decrease time in the air over Ukraine and an attempt to further stretch Ukrainian air defences.”

The MoD added: "Prior to this 26 February 2023 attack, there have not been any reports of OWA UAVs being used in Ukraine since around 15 February 2023.

The ministry said the decrease in attack tempo using kamikaze drones was an indication that Russia had run down its current stock and that it would probably seek a resupply.

Both sides have taken heavy casualties, with Russia's "60,000 to 70,000" military deaths estimated to be higher in Ukraine than in all of its wars since the Second World War combined, according to a recent analysis by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

"The average rate of Russian soldiers killed per month is at least 25 times the number killed per month in Chechnya and 35 times the number killed in Afghanistan, which highlights the stark realities of a war of attrition," it said.

"The Ukrainian military has also performed remarkably well against a much larger and initially better-equipped Russian military, in part due to the innovation of its forces."

On Wednesday the country’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine had survived “the most difficult winter” in its history.

"On March 1, 2023, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin suffered his fifth major defeat since his full-scale invasion ― Ukraine defeated his winter terror," Mr Kuleba said.

"We survived the most difficult winter in our history. It was cold and dark, but we were unbreakable."

Meanwhile, Bakhmut is “the most difficult situation” facing Ukrainian forces, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Tuesday.

“Russia does not count people at all, sending them to constantly storm our positions. The intensity of fighting is only increasing.”

Ukraine has decided to send additional troops to Bakhmut as Russian forces focus efforts on the offensive there, aiming to reach the administrative borders of the Donetsk region, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia's Wagner mercenary force, said on Wednesday that Ukrainian troops were "trying to hold the town with all their strength" in a short audio message released by his press service.

"Tens of thousands of Ukrainian army fighters are putting up furious resistance. The bloodiness of the battles is growing by the day."

Thousands of residents are still in the ruined city from a pre-war population of about 70,000. As Russia kept Ukraine under pressure around Bakhmut, its defence ministry said its forces had repelled what it described as a huge drone attack on Crimea by Kyiv's forces, Russian news agencies reported.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Kyiv demands that Moscow hand it back. The defence ministry said the attempted Ukrainian drone attack had not inflicted any casualties.

Updated: March 01, 2023, 2:40 PM