Russia is unlikely to be able to gather forces of sufficient quality to capture the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, Britain’s military intelligence said on Saturday.
Both Russia and Ukraine have committed “significant forces” to the area around the towns of Pavlivka and Vuhledar in south-central Donetsk Oblast, the U.K’s defense ministry said in its daily intelligence update posted on Twitter.
Although the area “has been the scene of intense combat” in the past two weeks, little territory has changed hands, according to the ministry.
“This area remains heavily contested, likely partially because Russia assesses the area has potential as a launch point for a future major advance north to capture the remainder of Ukrainian-held Donetsk Oblast,” it said.
“However, Russia is unlikely to be able to concentrate sufficient quality forces to achieve an operational breakthrough.”
It comes as Russia has ramped up its attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure after suffering a series of battlefield setbacks nine months into its invasion of the country.
On Saturday, British defense officials said Russia’s forces was resorting to removing nuclear warheads from ageing nuclear cruise missiles to fire at targets in Ukraine, saying it highlighted Russia’s dwindling supply of missiles.
Winter War To Intensify as Ground Freezes
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said that the overall pace of military operations in Ukraine may increase in the coming weeks.
In its latest assessment on Saturday, the U.S.-based think tank said that operations have slowed in recent days to due to worsening weather conditions, but are “likely to increase starting in the next few weeks as temperatures drop and the ground freezes.”
According to the ISW, reporting from critical frontline areas throughout eastern and southern Ukraine indicates that operations on both sides are “currently bogged down by heavy rain and resulting heavy mud.”
But temperature are forecast to drop across Ukraine in the coming week. That will “likely freeze the ground and expedite the pace of fighting as mobility increases for both sides,” analysts wrote in the report.
It says temperatures in northeastern Ukraine, such as along the Svatove-Kreminna line, will drop to near or below freezing between November 28 and December 4.
The ISW noted that it would likely take a few days of consistent freezing temperatures for the ground to harden, meaning conditions are likely to be set to allow operations to increase from the weekend beginning December 3 and into the following week.
“It is unclear if either side is actively planning or preparing to resume major offensive or counter-offensive operations at that time, but the meteorological factors that have been hindering such operations will begin lifting,” ISW analysts concluded.
Newsweek has contacted Russia’s defense ministry for comment.
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