The Russian military has recently been fortifying its defenses in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the UK Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update on Jan. 8.
The increased fortifications, particularly between the towns of Vasilyvka and Orikhiv of the oblast, suggest that Russia may be anticipating a potential counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces in either Luhansk Oblast or Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
“A major Ukrainian breakthrough in Zaporizhzhia would seriously challenge the viability of Russia’s ‘land bridge’ linking Russia’s Rostov region and Crimea,” the ministry said.
Additionally, the ministry said that a Ukrainian victory in Luhansk would “further undermine Russia’s professed war aim of ‘liberating’ the Donbas.”
According to the British Defense Ministry, the Russian military planners are currently facing a dilemma in deciding which of these potential threats to prioritize in their efforts to counter.
In recent weeks, Ukrainian officials stepped up their rhetoric on the prospects of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said Ukraine was planning a major counteroffensive in spring, while Zelensky said in late December that “Ukraine is on track to victory that all generations have dreamed of.”