Russia and Ukraine have both amassed “significant forces” in the key area of Zaporizhzhia, but the conflict there appears to be deadlocked, according to the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense (MOD).
The defense ministry issued its latest update on the ongoing war in Ukraine on Saturday morning and reported that large-scale clashes have not taken place in Bakhmut so far.
The update came as the Ukrainian government claimed Saturday that more than 20,000 Russian troops had been killed over the past month, though Ukraine’s figures have not been verified and the country describes them as “approximate.”
The MOD said that in recent days “the heaviest fighting has focused in three sectors. In the northeast, near Kremina, Ukraine has likely made small gains and successfully defended against a Russian counter-attack.”
“Around the Donetsk Oblast, in Bakhmut sector, Russian and Wagner proxy forces have likely been reconstituting in the town of Soledar, after capturing it earlier in the week,” the ministry said.
That is a reference to the Wagner Group, a private mercenary organization that fights alongside Russian forces in Ukraine.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S.-based think tank, said on Friday that recent reports suggest the Wagner Group is struggling and that it lacks “basic administrative organs to maintain records of individual servicemen and communicate properly with authorities.”
Yevgeny Prigozhin, businessman and founder of the Wagner group, recently clashed with the Russian defense ministry after it claimed victory in taking the town of Soledar without acknowledging the group’s role.
The ministry later issued a report clarifying the Wagner Group’s involvement.
The U.K.’s defense ministry said on Saturday that “in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, both sides have massed significant forces, which have conducted artillery exchanges and skirmishes, but have avoided any large-scale offensive effort.”
“Overall, the conflict is in a state of deadlock. However, there is a realistic possibility of local Russian advances around Bakhmut,” the MOD said.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in an update on Saturday that 860 Russian troops had been “liquidated” over the previous 24 hours, which would bring the total number of Russian losses since the start of the invasion on February 24 last year to 120,160.
On Friday, General Mark Milley, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a press conference that the war is “turning into an absolute catastrophe for Russia: massive amounts of casualties, lots of other damage to the Russian military, etc.”
Milley also said Russian President Vladimir Putin “could end this war right now, right today.”
Newsweek has reached out to the Russian and Ukrainian defense ministries for comment.