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Cleanup in Kharkiv, Ukraine, after a Russian missile attack

Photo: Uncredited / Kharkiv Regional Administration / AP / dpa

According to the UK, Ukraine has weakened Russia's offensive potential in southern Ukraine by shooting down three Russian jets. This had a particular impact on Russian attacks on a Ukrainian position on the southeast bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region, which is otherwise controlled by Moscow, the British Ministry of Defense said on Saturday, citing intelligence findings.

The British consider it realistic that the lack of air support could have contributed to the failure of an offensive by the 18th Army against the so-called bridgehead. In recent days, Russia has intensified its tactical airstrikes around the position, but to a lesser extent than before the three shoot-downs on December 22.

Possible new offensive in northeastern Ukraine

At the same time, US military experts warn of a possible new offensive by Russia in northeastern Ukraine. "Russian forces may intensify their efforts to capture Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region in the coming weeks," write analysts at the American Institute for the Study of War. In their opinion, the units stationed there are less worn out than the Russian troops attacking elsewhere.

On Saturday morning, the Ukrainian General Staff reported seven repelled attacks on the settlement of Synkivka, not far from Kupyansk, in its daily situation report. Kupyansk is considered a strategically important railway junction. The city is divided into two halves by the Oskil River. The Ukrainians hold only a limited strip of land east of the Oskil River near Kupyansk. After the Ukrainian military was able to partially penetrate into the neighboring Luhansk region at this point during its counteroffensive in autumn 2022, it is now back on the defensive.

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Rocket and artillery attacks on the Kharkiv region and the city itself have also increased significantly recently. After a missile hit in Kupyansk, a 61-year-old woman was rescued from the rubble during the night and taken to hospital, the region's military governor, Oleh Synyehubov, said on his Telegram channel on Saturday.

The increase in attacks sparked speculation that Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin could try to capture the megacity of Kharkiv ahead of Russia's upcoming presidential election in March. The city is located only about 40 kilometers from the Russian border. According to Ukrainian military officials, however, no Russian troop concentration has been detected in the region so far.

Ukraine has been defending itself against Russia's war of aggression for almost two years.