Western defense officials and analysts have said they believe Russian forces are setting up a new defensive line in northeastern Ukraine after troops from Kyiv broke through the previous one and tried to push their advances. further east.
Ukrainian forces continue to cross the Oskil River in the Kharkiv region as they attempt to pursue a counteroffensive targeting Russian-occupied territory, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.
The Institute said satellite images it reviewed suggest Ukrainian forces crossed the eastern bank of the Oskil at Kupiansk, placing artillery there.
The river, which flows south from Russia into Ukraine, had been a natural break in newly emerging frontlines since Ukraine launched its push about a week ago.
“Russian forces are likely too weak to prevent further Ukrainian advances along the entire Oskil River if Ukrainian forces choose to resume offensive operations,” the institute said.
It remains unclear whether the Russians would be able to withstand another concerted Ukrainian assault.
The UK Ministry of Defense said the new line would likely be between the Oskil River and Svatove, around 90 miles southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
The demarcation comes after a Ukrainian counteroffensive ripped a hole in the previous front line and recaptured large swaths of land in the northeast Kharkiv region, which borders Russia.
Moscow “probably considers maintaining control of this area important as it passes through one of the few major supply routes that Russia still controls from Russia’s Belgorod region,” the British military said, adding that “a stubborn defense of this area” was likely.
Videos circulating online on Saturday said Ukrainian forces were also continuing to retake land in the east.
Video showed a Ukrainian soldier walking past a building with a destroyed roof, then pointing over his shoulder at a colleague who hung the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag above a mobile phone tower.
The soldier in the video identified the seized village as Dibrova, just northeast of the city of Sloviansk and southeast of the besieged town of Lyman in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
Another online video showed two Ukrainian soldiers in what appeared to be a bell tower. A Ukrainian flag appeared when a soldier said he took the village of Shchurove, just northeast of Sloviansk.
The Ukrainian army and the Russians did not immediately recognize the change of hands of the two villages.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russian forces continued to pound towns and villages with missile strikes and shelling.
A Russian missile attack early Saturday sparked a fire in Kharkiv’s industrial zone, said Oleh Syniehubov, the regional governor. Firefighters extinguished the blaze.
Mr Syniehubov said the remains of the missiles suggest the Russians fired S-300 surface-to-air missiles at the city.
The S-300 is designed to hit missiles or aircraft in the sky, not ground targets. Analysts said Russia’s use of the missiles for ground attacks suggests it may run out of precision munitions as the months-long war continues.
In the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, much of which is occupied by the Russians, one person was injured after Russian forces shelled the town of Orikhiv, Ukrainian governor of Zaporizhzhia Oleksandr Starukh reported on Telegram.
Mr Starukh said Russian troops also shelled two villages in the area, destroying several civilian facilities there.
The central region of Dnipropetrovsk was also the target of fire overnight, according to its governor, Valentyn Reznichenko.
“The enemy attacked six times and launched more than 90 deadly projectiles at peaceful towns and villages,” Reznichenko said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s atomic energy operator Energoatom said a 25-truck convoy brought diesel fuel and other essential supplies to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – the largest in Europe – which was closed a week ago over fears that fighting in the area could lead to a radioactive disaster.
The trucks were allowed through Russian checkpoints on Friday to deliver spare parts for repairing damaged power lines, chemicals for plant operation and extra fuel for emergency diesel generators, it said. Energoatom in a statement.
The six-reactor plant was captured by Russian forces in March but is still operated by Ukrainian engineers.
Its last reactor was shut down on Sunday after repeated power outages from bombings endangered crucial safety systems.