In its daily Twitter update, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russia is struggling to make a major breakthrough on the frontlines in Donetsk. However, the Kremlin’s forces are “likely” closing in on Ukraine’s second biggest power plant. Russia already controls the nuclear power plant at Zaporizhia, southeast Ukraine, and there have been fears of a catastrophic accident there.
Unlike Zaporizhia, Vuhlehirska power plant, in Donetsk Oblast, is not nuclear-powered. However, its loss could be catastrophic for Ukraine as it provides a significant amount of energy to the country.
The MoD said: “Russian and separatist forces continue to attempt small scale assaults along the Donbas front line. Russian forces are likely closing in on Ukraine’s second biggest power plant at Vuhlehirska, 50km north-east of Donetsk.
“Russia is prioritising the capture of critical national infrastructure, such as power plants.
“However, it is probably also attempting to break through at Vuhlehirska, as part of its efforts to regain momentum on the southern pincer of its advance towards the key cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.”
The key cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk are the likely sites of the next major battle for the Donbas. However, the renewed offensive had not resulted in “significant gains”, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
It said: “The renewal of Russian ground offensives has not yet resulted in significant Russian gains. However, continuous Russian pressure or successful Russian efforts to regrow combat power could lead to limited gains in the coming days or weeks.”
As Russian forces struggle to break through, capturing critical Ukrainian infrastructure could be a move to try to turn the tide of the battle in their favour.
Ukrainian counter offensives in the southern theatre near the city of Kherson were reportedly pushing Russian lines back. For the second day in a row yesterday, Ukrainian forces shelled the Antonovsky Bridge near Kherson City.
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This is not the first time the plant has come under fire. Earlier in the war, Russian artillery shells struck part of the plant and a fire was reported.
Ukraine has claimed that Russian forces are storing munitions and missile launchers in the occupied plant to fire across the river into Ukrainian held territory.
Nuclear experts have warned how dangerous the situation is at Zaporizhia. Dr Paul Dorfman is an Associate Fellow at Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, he has worked with the UK and European Governments on nuclear policy.
He previously told Express.co.uk: “If a nuclear power plant was hit by a missile in the UK, Europe or Ukraine, there could be catastrophic widespread radioactive contamination.”