UK officials on Monday noted extensive Russian defense far from the current front lines.
Some are even behind Russia’s own borders, suggesting it is worried about Ukraine attacking there.
Ukraine is preparing a counteroffensive, but it isn’t clear that could invade Russia, or wants to.
Russia is building defenses hundreds of miles away from its borders with Ukraine, fearing a counteroffensive so sweeping it could push into Russian territory, according to British intelligence.
The UK Ministry of Defence posted an update on Twitter Monday morning, noting the presence of trench networks “well inside internationally recognised Russian territory including in the Belgorod and Kursk regions.”
—Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) May 1, 2023
The reason, per the update, was “Russian leaders’ deep concern that Ukraine could achieve a major breakthrough.”
Anticipation is building around a long-promised counterattack from Ukraine, which has for the past months been building its strength while trying to hold back the grinding advances of the Russian military through winter.
Ukraine’s defense minister last week said that the counteroffensive was mostly ready to go. Ukraine has been organizing new brigades and has recently received powerful new weapons from Western allies, including the Leopard, Challenger, and Abrams tanks.
The extra troops and firepower could help achieve a breakthrough in countering the invasion, which has been mostly static for months.
However, a serious effort to invade Russia is beyond what most observers consider feasible for Ukraine, which has far fewer resources than Russia and has been focused on defending its own territory.
Ukraine hasn’t made any attempts so far to occupy Russian land, and its stated aim in the war is to restore control over Ukraine’s internationally-recognized territory, including the Crimea peninsula, which Russia has held since 2014.
The UK update noted that the defenses far from the front line might be more of a propaganda effort to harden the population’s resolve by making them think the Ukrainian military could come close to their homes.
“Some works have likely been ordered by local commanders and civil leaders in attempts to promote the official narrative that Russia is ‘threatened’ by Ukraine and NATO,” the update said.
The UK update noted that Russia has also been fortifying defensive lines inside occupied Ukrainian territory, much closer to the fighting.
Some of those, including the town of Medvedivka in Crimea, have been documented in photographs, including those analyzed in an April 3 article from The Washington Post.
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