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UK Defense Ministry: Russia completes 120-km defense line in Zaporizhzhia Oblast

by The Kyiv Independent news desk April 12, 2023 1:18 PM 2 min read
Military personnel of a battalion of one of the Territorial Defense brigades undergoes combat training at a training ground in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, southeastern Ukraine, on March 14, 2023. (Dmytro Smolienko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
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Russian forces have built three lines of defensive zones across nearly 120 kilometers in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Oblast, but it is unclear if Russia can accumulate enough troops and artillery to support the defenses, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on April 12.

Over the past weeks, Russian troops have been developing extensive defense lines in the region in preparation for Ukraine's anticipated counteroffensive towards the key city of Melitopol, according to the report. Zaporizhzhia Oblast's front line is most likely the area of responsibility of Russia's Southern Grouping of Forces (SGF).

The three-layer defensive zone recently completed by the Russian military consists of a front line with advanced combat positions and two more zones with almost continuous, more complex barricades, the ministry wrote in its latest intelligence update. The defensive lines are reportedly located about 10-20 km behind the front line.

Russia's defenses "have the potential to be formidable obstacles, but their utility almost entirely depends on them being supported by sufficient artillery and personnel," reads the update. "It remains unclear if the SGF can currently muster these resources."

Since Russia occupied large areas of Zaporizhzhia Oblast in the first phase of the full-scale war, the front line in this area has been the most static in Ukraine, in great part due to the vast, flat, open fields in the area that make large-scale offensives difficult.

Nonetheless, it is exactly here that many expect Ukraine to launch its much-anticipated counteroffensive in the late spring or early summer months, as a breakthrough in Southern Ukraine would have the greatest strategic significance, potentially cutting off Russia's land connection to Crimea and isolating its presence on the occupied peninsula.

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