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Friday, March 31, 2023

Russia’s Melitopol Movement “Recognition” Will Fail Main Target: Britain

Moscow’s decision to turn the capital of a region in southern Ukraine into an occupied city likely shows that Russia believes it may not succeed with “big targets in the near future” planned, according to a new intelligence assessment.

On March 3, Russian authorities said the city of Melitopol would replace Zaporizhia as the capital of the Zaporizhia region.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it took Melitopol just two days after the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022. It was the first major settlement taken over by Putin’s forces when the all-out war began and was seen as a key breakthrough at the time.

On March 6, Russian state media carried reports from a Kremlin official who said the city of Zaporizhia will again become the regional capital, but only if Russian troops capture it.

The southern oblast was illegally annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in September 2022, but Russian forces have failed to gain control of the city of Zaporizhia and its roughly 700,000 residents. The city is in the northern part of the oblast – about 22 miles from the front line – but Russian forces control parts of the south of the region.

The UK MoD says the alternative capital’s “silent declaration” has meaning.

The UK government ministry wrote in its daily update on Sunday that the decision to switch capitals was likely a “tacit confirmation” for Russia that its armed forces are unlikely to succeed with “pre-planned major targets in the near future”.

The Defense Ministry didn’t elaborate on what those pre-determined “key targets” might be, but Western analysts say Russian forces have been concentrating on front lines in eastern Ukraine rather than pushing through the south.

In the southern Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, Putin’s forces are working to hold their frontline positions and secure Russian-held territory against strikes, think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Saturday.

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

Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported on Sunday that the city of Zaporizhia was “swarming 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 Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Russian troops were “defending” in the Zaporizhia region, with some settlements coming under shelling overnight.

In early January, the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov announced news week that Russian forces had fortified the city and erected new military buildings.

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

news week contacted the Russian Defense Ministry.

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