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Russia has built powerful defense structures along the front line, in occupied Ukrainian territory and also at points deep within Russia, UK’s Ministry of Defense said in its latest intelligence update. 

“Since summer 2022, Russia has constructed some of the most extensive systems of military defensive works seen anywhere in the world for many decades,” the ministry said. 

“Imagery shows that Russia has made a particular effort to fortify the northern border of occupied Crimea, including with a multi-layered defensive zone near the village of Medvedivka,” the ministry said.

It also said hundreds of kilometers of trenches had been dug on internationally recognized Russian territory, including in the Belgorod and Kursk regions, which border Ukraine.

London gave two possible reasons for the construction. “The defenses highlight Russian leaders’ deep concern that Ukraine could achieve a major breakthrough,” it said.

However, some works have likely been ordered by local commanders and civil leaders in attempts to promote the official narrative that Russia is “threatened” by Ukraine and NATO, the ministry added.

Pope hints at secret Vatican peace ‘mission’

Pope Francis said the Vatican is willing to help facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who were taken to Russia during the war.

He also said the Catholic Church was involved in a mission to secure peace in Ukraine.

“I’m available to do anything,” Francis told reporters while flying back from a trip to Hungary on Sunday.

“There’s a mission that’s not public that’s underway; when it’s public I’ll talk about it,” the pope said, without providing further details.

Francis said though that he was willing to do “all that is humanly possible” to reunite families.

Russia has been accused of war crimes for deporting children from Ukraine to Russia. Moscow has denied any wrongdoing, saying children were moved for their safety.

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