Russia 'preparing large-scale offensive' as Putin's troops suffer losses amid attacks

23 March 2022, 14:21 | Updated: 24 March 2022, 00:46

Russia is 'preparing for a large-scale attack' in the north of Ukraine.
Russia is 'preparing for a large-scale attack' in the north of Ukraine. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Russia is 'preparing for a large-scale attack' in the north of Ukraine, despite Putin's troops suffering heavy losses as civilian attacks continue.

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The UK's Ministry of Defence said forces were "likely conducting a period of reorganisation" as battlefields remained mostly static in the north.

It added that troops were also attempting to encircle major cities in the east and west as well, including Kharkiv and Mykolaiv.

However, the potential major attack on the way could mean a further push on the capital of Kyiv, which is located in north-central Ukraine.

The latest intelligence update from the ministry said: "The battlefield across northern Ukraine remains largely static with Russian forces likely conducting a period of reorganisation before resuming large-scale offensive operations.

"Russian forces are attempting to envelop Ukrainian forces in the east of the country as they advance from the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south.

"Russian forces are still attempting to circumvent Mykolaiv as they look to drive west towards Odesa."

Read more: Disaster for Putin: Russian troops 'suffer frostbite and lose 10% of their invasion force'

Read more: 'Catastrophic' sanctions against Russia will hit poorer households in UK, MPs warn

It comes as the Kremlin has refused to rule out use of nuclear weapons as talks make little progress.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN: "If it is an existential threat for our country, then it (the nuclear arsenal) can be used in accordance with our concept."

Asked if Putin's threats to use nuclear weapons was intended simply to send a message to the world, he said: "President Putin intends to make the world listen to and understand our concerns.

"We've been trying to convey our concerns to the world - to Europe, to the United States - for a couple of decades, but no one would listen to us."

Putin's troops are reported to have suffered heavy losses in recent days, with them thought to have lost as much as 10 per cent of the forces sent in to Ukraine, according to a defence official.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) said Russia was suffering from "command and control problems", with some soldiers getting frostbite as they lacked the appropriate cold weather gear.

Meanwhile, Russian attacks on civilians continue across major cities in Ukraine as they target more populated areas.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said almost 100,000 people remain trapped in Mariupol where they face "inhumane" conditions - living without essentials such as food and water as Russia continues to shell the city.