The Zaporizhzhia region of southeast Ukraine has become the most recent hot spot for battles in the 18-month war, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday, as Kyiv’s forces press ahead with their counteroffensive. 

Shoigu told Russian military officers that Ukraine has brought up reserve brigades there that were trained by Kyiv’s Western allies. He offered no evidence for his claim, which could not be independently verified. 

Fighting in the southeast could be one of the keys to the war. If Russian defenses there collapse, Ukrainian forces could push southward toward the coast and potentially split Russian forces into two. 

Shoigu’s assertion was corroborated in part by other reports and assessments of Ukraine’s three-month-old effort to drive out the Kremlin’s troops.