Putin on edge as Ukraine deploys elite strike force trained by British commandos

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British-trained Ukrainian soldiers have entered the battlefield as the counter-offensive escalates against Russia. Earlier this week, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin confirmed there’s been “intensified” fighting in southern Ukraine. This echoes unnamed US defence officials, who suggested that a new push has begun in the Ukrainian counter-offensive.

The BBC’s defence correspondent Jonathan Beale revealed that elite strike forces trained in the UK by the British military was now entering the fray.

Mr Beale interviewed General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, who is in charge of Ukraine’s counter-offensive in the south.

The Ukrainian general admitted that Russia was making it difficult for Western-supplied military equipment, including tanks, to move forward.

Russia has fortified miles of territory with mines and tank traps, in a bid to slow down Ukraine’s advances.

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However, General Tarnavskyi also revealed that he has not yet committed his full elite strike force.

The BBC defence correspondent, speaking from Ukraine, said: “Lots of those Western-trained troops and equipment provided by the West have not been committed to the battle.

“Pentagon sources have said that they are seeing Ukraine commit more of those troops, and more of that equipment to the warzone around the frontline.

“Ukraine wants to see results soon. The clock is ticking.”

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Ukraine: Crimean town of Dzhankoy rocked by explosion

This comes as Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s intelligence agency, claimed Ukrainian forces could enter Crimea “soon”.

He raised the prospect of Ukrainian forces retaking the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.

Crimea has been subject to attacks in recent weeks – including an explosion which wrecked the Kerch bridge.

President Putin told reporters in St Petersburg that Ukraine’s counter-offensive had intensified but still failed, saying: “All counter-offensive attempts were stopped, and the enemy was pushed back with high casualties.”

The US-based Institute for the Study of War said on Thursday that an “intense frontal assault” had been launched towards Robotyne, to the southeast of Zaporizhzhia city.

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Western officials have suggested the attack on Robotyne signalled the start of a new phase in Ukraine’s counter-offensive.

Vladimir Rogov, the head of the Moscow-installed administration in Zaporizhzhia in the south, appeared to contradict President Putin’s claims, saying that a Ukrainian missile attack on his region had been “massive”.

Russian-backed militia leader Aleksandr Khodakovsky also disputed President Putin’s claims, saying Ukraine had shelled the town of Staromaiorske for several days and made gains.

Staromaiorske has been a key Russian outpost on the frontline in the southeast.

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