In its latest intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine, published on Friday, the British defence ministry wrote: “In the Donbas, Russian and pro-Russian Luhansk People's Republic separatist forces claim to have entered the outskirts of Siversk.”
It added: “This has not been corroborated, however, Russian forces have been slowly advancing westwards following shelling and probing assaults towards Siversk from Lysychansk to open a pathway onward to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.”
The UK analysts predicted that, after securing Siversk, “Bakhmut is likely to be the next objective,” for the Russian units.
Russia failing to strike Snake Island
The British defence ministry also reported that "since withdrawing from the strategically located Snake Island" on June 30, "Russia has been attempting to deny its use by Ukraine.”
However, on July 13, "airstrikes by two Su-27 Russian fighter jets failed to hit the island,” it added.
According to the UK analysts, "this follows the pattern of Russian air forces failing to successfully engage in the tactical battle.”
Over 2.5 million people evacuated from Ukraine to Russia
More than 2.5 million people have now been evacuated from Ukraine to Russia since the start of the invasion, the British defence ministry estimated.
It noted that Russia continued to face accusations that it was forcibly deporting Ukrainians.
"In many cases Ukrainians have reportedly been mistreated in filtration camps set up by Russia,” it said.
'The enemy is regrouping'
Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Friday reported that “the enemy is regrouping in order to resume the offensive in the direction of Siversk.”
Ukraine’s military command added that Russian forces were trying to advance in the direction of Soledar, Bakhmut and Slovyansk.
Along the contact line, east of Bakhmut, Ukrainian soldiers "successfully stopped enemy assault attempts in the area of Kodema and Bilohorivka, as well as attempts to capture the villages of Spirne and Vershyna,” the Ukrainian General Staff also reported.
It added that Russian forces continued to shell Ukrainian positions and settlements along the contact line, and were also using airstrikes and deploying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance.
According to Ukraine’s military command, the Russian army was trying to "strengthen the air defence system of rear bases and units.”
The Ukrainian General Staff also said that the Russians continued to "openly lie about the location of military units in kindergartens, hospitals and churches” in order to "somehow justify the destruction of civilian objects on the territory of Ukraine."
Assaults on residential areas
According to the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank, Russia’s missile strike on the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia on Thursday was “part of a systematic Russian campaign of attacks on residential areas of cities in Ukraine.”
In its latest analysis of the war in Ukraine, published on Friday, the ISW wrote: “Russia continued its campaign of systematic attacks on residential areas in Ukrainian cities with strikes on Vinnytsia, Kharkiv City, and Mykolaiv City.”
The US experts quoted the deputy head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, as saying that “Russian forces launched Kalibr missiles from a submarine at the Vinnytsia city center.”
The strike resulted in at least 23 civilian deaths and dozens of injuries, according to Ukrainian officials.
Meanwhile, the missile attack on Mykolaiv City hit “a hotel, educational facilities, a shopping centre, and transport infrastructure,” the think tank reported.
'Heavy shelling, missile attacks, airstrikes all along the front line'
The US experts noted that “Russia’s operational pause largely continued, with limited Russian ground assaults along the Slovyansk-Siversk-Bakhmut salient.”
At the same time, Russian forces continued "heavy shelling, missile attacks, and airstrikes all along the front line,” they added.
The ISW also said that the Russians "will likely launch a larger-scale and more determined offensive along the Slovyansk-Siversk-Bakhmut line soon, but there are no indications yet of how soon that attack will begin or exactly where it will focus.”
Friday is day 142 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Source: PAP, facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua, understandingwar.org