Ukraine LIVE: Putin accused of 'terrorist attack' as European gas pipelines 'sabotaged'

Russia has increased its defences because the Ukrainian advance now threatens pseudo-referenda in the Donbas, according to the latest intelligence briefing from the British Ministry of Defence. 

The briefing said: “Ukraine has pressed its offensive operations in the north-east of the country over the last few days.

“Units are making slow advances on at least two axes east from the line of the Oskil and Siverskyy Donets rivers, where forces had consolidated following their previous advance earlier in the month.

“Russia is mounting a more substantive defence than previously, likely because the Ukrainian advance now threatens parts of Luhansk Oblast as voting in the referendum on accession to the Russian Federation closes.

“Heavy fighting also continues in the Kherson region where the Russian force on the right bank of the Dnipro remains vulnerable.

“Russia continues its grinding attempts to advance near Bakhmut in the Donbas even while it faces severe pressure on its northern and southern flanks.

“This is likely due to political pressure as Russia is using forces that could otherwise reinforce the other flanks.”

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