Russia’s air activity “remains high” over eastern Ukraine and has contributed to Russia’s “recent tactical successes,” but has “failed to have a meaningful impact on the conflict,” the latest intelligence assessment from the UK’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday.
“Russia has been able to increase its employment of tactical air to support its creeping advance, combining airstrikes and massed artillery fires to bring its overwhelming firepower to bear,” the ministry said in one its regular updates on the situation in Ukraine.
Russian aircraft are “conducting strikes using both guided and unguided munitions,” it added.
Defense experts and analysts had raised concerns that Russia may increase its use of standoff weapons, including air strikes, as it intensifies its operation to capture the Donbas region. Such weapons tend to cause a higher number of civilian casualties.
“The increased use of unguided munitions has led to the widespread destruction of built-up areas in the Donbas and has almost certainly caused substantial collateral damage and civilian casualties,” the update said.
Russia has been conducting deep strikes using air and surface launched cruise missiles to “disrupt the movement of Ukrainian reinforcements and supplies,” the statement said, adding that Russia’s supply of precision guided missiles “are likely to have been significantly depleted.”
Some background: The ministry’s intelligence update comes a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that one-fifth of the country’s territory is under Russian control, with Donbas “almost entirely destroyed.”
“As of today, about 20% of our territory is under the control of the occupiers, almost 125 thousand square kilometers. This is much larger than the area of all the Benelux countries combined,” Zelensky said to the Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg via video link on Thursday.
He added that Ukraine’s Donbas region is “simply devastated,” calling it “once one of the most powerful industrial centers in Europe.”
But on Saturday, head of the Luhansk region’s military administration, Serhiy Hayday, said Ukraine is regaining ground in Severodonetsk, claiming to now control half the key city.
CNN’s Anastasia Graham-Yooll contributed reporting to this post.
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