‘Recognition’ of Russia’s Melitopol move won’t hit key target: UK

Moscow’s decision to change the capital of a region in southern Ukraine to an occupied city likely shows that Russia believes it may not succeed with ‘major goals planned for the near future’, according to a news report. intelligence assessment.

On March 3, Russian authorities declared that the city of Melitopol would replace Zaporizhzhia as the capital of the Zaporizhzhia region.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it captured Melitopol just two days after the start of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. It was the first major settlement to be taken over by Putin’s forces as full-scale warfare began and was seen as key. breakthrough at the time.

On March 6, Russian state media carried reports from a Kremlin official who said the city of Zaporizhzhia would once again become the regional capital, but only after Russian forces captured it.

Russian servicemen look at the Russian national flag in the center of Melitopol, amid ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine, June 14, 2022. Russian authorities said Melitopol would replace the city of Zaporizhzhia as the regional capital in the Beginning of the month.
YURI KADOBNOV/AFP via Getty Images

Southern Oblast was illegally annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in September 2022, but Russian forces failed to take control of the city of Zaporizhzhia and its approximately 700,000 residents. The city is located in the northern area of ​​the Oblast – about 22 miles from the front line – but Russian forces control southern parts of the region.

The alternative capital’s “silent statement” has a meaning, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

Writing in its daily update on Sunday, Britain’s government department said the decision to switch capitals is likely a “tacit recognition” for Russia that its forces are unlikely to succeed with “major objectives previously planned in the near future. coming”.

The Ministry of Defense did not specify what these predetermined “major objectives” might be, but Western analysts say Russian forces have been concentrated on the front lines in eastern Ukraine, rather than on push south.

In the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, Putin’s forces are scrambling to hold their frontline positions and secure Russian-held territory from strikes, the Institute for Humanitarianism think tank said on Saturday. study of war (ISW).

But in the annexed territories, Russian-installed authorities are working to “Russify” Ukrainian residents, the ISW said. Drone strikes on Friday evening and Saturday morning also targeted Zaporizhzhia, the ISW added.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on Sunday that the city of Zaporizhzhia was “overflowing with Ukrainian militants and foreign mercenaries”, citing Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Kremlin-backed authorities in the region.

On Sunday, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russian troops were “defending” the Zaporizhzhia region as some settlements came under fire overnight.

At the beginning of January, the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, declared Newsweek that the Russian forces had fortified the city and built new military buildings.

“We see that they want to defend the temporarily occupied territories, and every week our citizens who remained in the occupied territories tell us that new Russian troops, newly enlisted soldiers, are coming,” he said.

Newsweek contacted the Russian Defense Ministry.


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