Ukrainian troops on the front line say they face a tough fight for the southern Kherson region, which Russia now appears to be stepping up after days when Moscow’s retreat seemed possible.
In Russia, the military staged a high-profile rehearsal for nuclear war, with footage of submarines, strategic bombers and missile forces rehearsing launches in response to a nuclear attack dominating state television broadcasts.
Moscow launched a diplomatic campaign this week to promote allegations that Kyiv is preparing to release nuclear material from a the West calls the accusation baseless and .
A damaged gas station after Russian missile fire in Dnieper, Ukraine on October 26, 2022. Source: Getty, Anadolu / Metin Akas
The battle for at the mouth of the Dnieper River is expected to be one of the most consequential in the war, which will determine whether Kyiv can loosen Moscow’s control over southern Ukraine.
Although much of the front line remains closed to reporters, in one section of the front north of the Russian-occupied zone on the west bank of the Dnieper, Ukrainian soldiers said Russian shelling had intensified again after it had stopped in recent weeks.
Radio intercepts showed that freshly mobilized recruits had been sent to the front and that Russian troops were deeply entrenched.
“They have good defensive lines with deep trenches, and they sit deep underground,” said Vital, a Ukrainian soldier squatting in a weedy irrigation canal, hidden from any enemy drones by overhanging trees.
Both Russia and NATO are holding long-standing annual exercises of their nuclear forces this week. But Russia paid much more attention to the exercise than usual, timing it to the moment of its accusations against Ukraine of dirty bombs.
Kyiv says that Moscow is waving the prospect of nuclear war to intimidate Western countries into abandoning their support for Ukraine. Moscow said that President Vladimir Putin personally watched the nuclear exercises remotely.
A day earlier, the Pentagon said Russia had notified it of its intention to conduct the drills, reducing the risk of a miscalculation at a time of “reckless” Russian nuclear rhetoric.