Russia’s Ministry of Defense claims that its forces are now advancing in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhia region after a series of recent battlefield acquisitions on the Eastern Front of Ukraine.
On January 22, Moscow announced that its troops were strengthening their positions after renewed attacks on the Zaporizhzhya Front.
A few days ago, a pro-Russian official said that Russian forces had taken “operational control” of four settlements near the city of Orihiv in Zaporizhia.
But Ukrainian officials say Russia’s claims are exaggerated.
Most of the Zaporizhzhya were captured in the first weeks of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which began 11 months ago. About 70% of the region is now under Russian control, but the capital city of Zaporizhia is still in Ukrainian hands.
Straddling the Dnipro River, the city lies about 35 miles northwest of Orihiu.
Over the past few weeks, fighting has been mainly concentrated in the eastern Donetsk region, with Russian forces scoring several victories.
Earlier this month, Russian forces captured the Donetsk town of Soledar, known for its extensive salt mines. Russian forces now want to besiege the nearby town of Bakhmut, an important shipping hub for Ukrainian troops and equipment.
Military experts say the loss of Bakhmut would disrupt Ukrainian supply lines to the Eastern Front. It would also clear the way for Russian attacks on key Ukrainian positions in the north and northwest.
According to pro-Moscow sources, Russian forces now control all but one of the main highways leading to Bakhmut.
In a daily update on 23 January, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed to have successfully captured the village of Krasnopolivka, about five miles north of Soledar.
Ukrainian officials have consistently denied Russian reports of battlefield gains, claiming fighting continues in Soledar.
The Epoch Times was unable to confirm field evaluations from either side.
Last September, Moscow claimed to have formally incorporated Donetsk and Zaporizhia into the Russian Federation, along with two other regions of Ukraine. The annexation has not been recognized as legal by the international community.
Backed by powerful Western allies, Kyiv vowed to keep fighting until all its lost territories were restored.
Berlin still reluctant to tanks
In this connection, Berlin has yet to decide whether to supply the Ukrainian army with German-made Leopard battle tanks.
“The federal government has not ruled out the supply of Leopard tanks [to Ukraine]According to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, government spokesman Steffen Hevestrite said:
“I haven’t decided yet if I will do that,” he told reporters in Berlin on Jan. 23.
The spokesman also dismissed media reports that the issue had caused friction between Washington and Berlin.
In recent weeks, Germany has come under pressure from other allies in Kyiv to supply Ukraine with German-made tanks.
However, Berlin was slow to approve the move due to concerns that it could be seen as an escalation.
On January 20, officials from Kyiv’s main allies gathered at Germany’s Ramstein air base to pledge billions of dollars in new military aid to Ukraine, but to approve the transfer of tanks from Germany to Kyiv. I couldn’t make that promise.
Several other countries, including Poland and Finland, have expressed a desire to send their own German-made Leopards, which are used by many NATO allied forces.
However, any transfer of German-made weapons to a third country must first be approved by the German government.
On January 22, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that all decisions on arms transfers are being coordinated with Kyiv’s other allies, including the United States.
On January 23, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told France’s LCI television channel that Berlin would not object if Poland started sending its own leopards to Kyiv.
Later the same day, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country would formally request Berlin’s permission to begin transferring German-made tanks.
But in a sign of growing tensions between the alliance, he added, “Even if this approval is not obtained … we will move the tanks to Ukraine along with other tanks.”
Morawiecki reiterated Warsaw’s earlier call for a “national coalition” willing to provide Kyiv with the desired combat vehicle.
Earlier this month, Britain pledged to provide Ukraine with 14 British-made Challenger 2 battle tanks. If done, it would be the first delivery of Western-made tanks to Ukraine since Russia invaded Ukraine last February.
Washington, meanwhile, has yet to announce its intention to provide Kyiv with US-made Abrams M1 tanks.
But recently, some U.S. lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, have begun calling for U.S. tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
“If you need to send some Abrams tanks to unlock … Leopard tanks from Germany, Poland [and] Senator Chris Coons (D-D) told ABC News on Jan. 22.
House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Michael McCall (R-Texas) expressed a similar opinion.
Reuters contributed to this report.