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Maintaining strong defense in Zaporizhzhia and Luhansk oblasts remains critically important for the Russian leadership, despite the current operational focus on central Donbas, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on Feb. 13.
"This is demonstrated by continued construction of defensive fortifications…and deployments of personnel," reads the report.
A significant breakthrough by Ukrainian troops in Zaporizhzhia Oblast would "seriously challenge" the viability of the Russian "land bridge" connecting its Rostov region and occupied Crimea, the ministry wrote in its latest intelligence update.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's success in Luhansk Oblast would "further undermine" Russia's declared military goal of capturing all of the Donbas region.
"Deciding which of these threats to prioritize countering is likely one of the central dilemmas for Russian operational planners," the U.K. Defense Ministry concludes.
The ministry wrote, citing open source imagery, that as of Feb. 7, Russia had likely further strengthened defense fortifications in the central part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, in particular near the town of Tarasivka.
Russian forces have also established defensive fortifications between the towns of Vasylivka and Orihiv in the same region as of Jan. 8.
Russia's front line in Ukraine is approximately 1,288 km, with the partially occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast frontline amounting to 192 km, the report reminds.
Russia has "highly likely" attempted to restart major offensive operations in Ukraine since early January, aiming to capture the remaining Ukrainian-controlled parts of Donetsk Oblast, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on Feb. 7.