Over the weekend, Ukraine increasingly attacked the Russian-occupied region around Melitopol. Experts assume that Ukraine could plan a new counter-offensive there despite the onset of winter. Suspicious battles in the region also point to this.

For days, Ukraine has been stepping up its attacks on Russian-occupied Melitopol. According to Ukrainian information, there was an explosion on one of the strategically most important bridges on Tuesday night, which is likely to limit the supply of Russian troops.

On Friday, Russian and Ukrainian troops were said to have been involved in heavy fighting about 100 kilometers from the city, Russian sources told the US magazine Forbes. Earlier, Ukraine is said to have massed “mechanized forces” around the city of Hulyaipole, prompting Russia to attack. The troops also engaged in artillery duels in the nearby town of Polohy.

That could mean that Ukraine is planning another major counter-offensive aimed at liberating much of southern Ukraine and paving the way to the occupied Crimea peninsula. Because Melitopol is the key to the defense of southern Ukraine, said Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “If Melitopol falls, the entire line of defense will collapse as far as Kherson. Ukrainian forces will be given a direct route to Crimea.”

According to Forbes, neither a particularly large number of Russian nor Ukrainian troops are currently stationed in the region. On the Russian side there are said to be “several thousand soldiers” in an armored rifle division. On the Ukrainian one, a counter-brigade with “a few thousand volunteers from the region” who are said to be only lightly armed.

Both the Washington-based “Institute for the Study of War” and the pro-Russian separatist Igor Girkin meanwhile report “massive artillery attacks” in the area around Huljajpole. According to Forbes, however, a march by the Ukrainians to Melitopol would require more than a few heavy brigades. Half a dozen heavy brigades were needed for each of the past counter-offensives in Kiev, Kharkiv and Cherson. To liberate first Melitopol and later South Kherson, Ukrainian forces would have to advance about 300 kilometers, defeating more than a dozen Russian brigades, according to Forbes.

The Ukrainian General Staff on Sunday confirmed a series of airstrikes against targets in the Russian-held city. According to Moscow, Ukrainian Himar rockets have hit Melitopol. At the same time, a number of command posts, accommodation and supply depots have been shelled with barrel and rocket artillery since Saturday evening, according to a statement from the military leadership in Kiev. However, the exact targets were not mentioned. The exiled Ukrainian mayor of the city even spoke of dozens of “invaders” killed.

An unidentified gunman fired on a patrol in the Rostov-on-Don region in southern Russia, injuring a police officer. The man was dressed in camouflage and was armed with an assault rifle. The deserter is said to be still on the run.

The Russian military reports advances in eastern Ukraine. Putin was disappointed by Angela Merkel’s recent comments on Ukraine. All current voices and developments on the Ukraine war can be found in the ticker.