Retired British Army colonel Hamish De Bretton Gordon has blasted the conduct of Russian troops in the southern region of Ukraine as “irrational” amid reports the Kremlin’s troops could look to take over a nuclear power station in the city of Zaporizhia in a bid to hold-off Ukrainian attempts to retake the area.
Mr De Bretton Gordon told TimesRadio: “Well, obviously they are fighting, the whole invasion of Ukraine has been extraordinary and the Russians seem to be completely unconcerned about collateral damage or civilian casualties.
“They just want to take the land, they moved into Zaporizhia very early to control it because I think it powers about 30 or 40 percent of Ukraine’s power and one one thing one expects them to do is shut it down so to create even more angst in the rest of Ukraine.
“But the other thing we know there is now a major counter-offensive by the Ukraine military heading south, in the area of the power station, and I think the Russians are just demonstrating that they’re going to use it as a key place to launch weapons from hoping that the Ukraine military will abstain from actually attacking it.
“But it is completely irresponsible and hopefully they will go around it and leave it alone. But if the Russian military is still firing missiles at them, that makes it very difficult. So yeah, it is completely irrational. And irresponsible and the Russians must be called out.”
Russia unleashed ground forces, air strikes, and artillery as it pressed ahead with a grinding offensive designed to complete its capture of eastern Ukraine, but Kyiv said its troops were putting up fierce resistance and holding the line.
Heavy fighting was reported on Tuesday in frontline towns near the eastern city of Donetsk, where Ukrainian officials said Russian troops were launching waves of attacks as they tried to seize control of the industrialised Donbas region.
“The situation in the region is tense – shelling is constant throughout the front line … The enemy is also using air strikes a great deal,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, one of two that makes up Donbas, told Ukrainian television.
“The enemy is having no success. Donetsk region is holding.”
British military intelligence, which is helping Ukraine, said that Russia’s push towards the city of Bakhmut had been its most successful operation in the Donbas in the last 30 days, but said it had still only managed to advance around 10 km (6 miles). It said Russian forces in other areas had not gained more than 3 km over the same period.
Russia, as part of what it calls its “special military operation”, has said it plans to seize full control of the Donbas on behalf of pro-Kremlin separatist forces, while Russian-installed officials in parts of southern Ukraine have said they plan to press ahead with referendums to join Russia.
Ukraine, which say Russia is prosecuting an unprovoked imperial-style war of aggression, is banking on sophisticated Western-supplied rocket and artillery systems to degrade Russian supply lines and logistics.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with the Washington Post that he wanted the West to impose a blanket ban on all Russians, including those that had fled Russia since Feb. 24, and for them to “live in their own world until they change their philosophy”.
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“Whichever kind of Russian … make them go to Russia,'” Zelensky was quoted as saying.
“They’ll understand then,” he said. “They’ll say, ‘This (war) has nothing to do with us.
“The whole population can’t be held responsible, can it?’ It can.”
The Kremlin dismissed Zelenskiy’s call for a ban as irrational, saying that Europe would ultimately have to decide if it wanted to pay the bills for his “whims”.