The Russian advance has largely been stalled on all fronts for a second day running. Heavy fighting has continued around Kiev, Chernihiv, Starobilsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, and other towns: predominantly urban areas which favour Ukraine’s infantry-heavy army composition.
The Russians appear to have captured some additional territory in the South, including Melitopol, the site of heavy fighting yesterday. This advance may lead to the encirclement of the city of Mariupol on the South coast of Ukraine, near the separatist republic of Donetsk.
Aircraft are significantly less prominent in the footage from today and yesterday. Why this is the case is not yet certain, since Russia ostensibly enjoys a huge superiority in combat aircraft. There may be logistical reasons for the intense use of aircraft on Day One and the subsequent concentration of ground troops in following days.
Readers should also be aware that since the overwhelming majority of footage comes from Ukrainian civilians, Ukrainian losses will tend to be underrepresented, with Russian losses overrepresented. Nevertheless, the strategic situation seems consistent with a highly effective Ukrainian defence.
Fighting rages across the outer districts of Kiev, predominantly in the north of the city. Following the capture of Chernobyl yesterday, Russian ground forces have linked up with troops at Hostomel Airport. An attack from the southeast was also reported today, from the direction of Boryspil Airport.
Two very large explosions rocked the city during the middle of the day. The cause of these explosions has not yet been ascertained.
Ukrainian armour was recorded during a firefight at Ivankiv on the Western outskirts of Kiev, along with infantry carrying the British NLAW anti-tank system.
Footage released today revealed the presence of Russia’s Chechen divisions near Hostomel, Kiev, where heavy fighting has been ongoing for three days. Although painted as savage barbarians by some foreign media, these ethnically Muslim troops appear to be effective fighters in the conflict thus far, capturing vehicles and munitions caches from the Ukrainian Army. A video released by the controversial Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov appeared to explain that the operation was being carried out slowly and carefully to avoid taking losses. Kadyrov is infamous for the execution of homosexuals in Chechnya, in accordance with Sharia law. Chechnyan dissidents resent Kadyrov for his alliance with Putin.
Despite widespread assertions that attempt to equate Chechen soldiers with ISIS fighters, it is worth emphasising that these troops are not ISIS jihadis. If we see the sort of footage coming out of Ukraine that we saw from ISIS in Syria, it will be clear that this is a distinction without a difference; until then, we should be wary of pre-emptively dehumanising the parties in this conflict.
Unconfirmed footage purports to show molotov cocktails used against a line of Russian vehicles near Chernihiv, to the northeast of Kiev. Satellite footage shows that the main bridge leading to Chernihiv from the Russian border appears to have been destroyed. The Russians appear to have made no further progress into Chernihiv today.
According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, a Russian armoured column was ambushed and destroyed while infiltrating towards Starobilsk from the Belgorod road, to the north. Similar reports have been coming in for three days, and the Russian appear to have made no gains in this sector.
Some of the heaviest fighting in the war is taking place around Kharkiv, a large city with a population of 1.4 million. Footage of heavy shelling and intense bombardments has been pouring in over the last three days. Numerous Russian vehicles have been destroyed. British NLAW anti-tank weapons have been filmed around this location, indicating that the local Ukrainian forces are likely well-trained and well-equipped.
As we reported previously, the entire Ukrainian male population aged 18-60 is being conscripted to fight. Being a large city, Kharkiv has no shortage of manpower for the defence.
Overall, the Ukrainian defence appears to be holding firm in the north and east of the country.
Update: this morning at dawn (27th February), reports arrived indicating that Russian forces have progress in this sector. Armoured vehicles and special forces have been seen entering Kharkiv.
Heavy fighting continues in Kherson, with no significant Russian gains for the time being. There appears to be more footage of Russian air assets operating here than in other parts of the theatre, which may be related to the close proximity of Russian Navy vessels in the Black Sea.
North of the town of Melitopol, which appears to be in Russian hands following their advance from the Crimea, footage appears to show a destroyed Russian T-72B main battle tank, as well as a destroyed Ukrainian HMWWV.
An unnamed US official reports that Russia has fired over 250 short-range ballistic missiles into Ukraine since the conflict began.
On Day One it was widely reported that 13 Ukrainian servicemen were killed during the defence of Snake Island in the Black Sea, having responded to a Russian Navy ultimatum with the words ‘F** you, Russia!’ The Kremlin at the time reported that 80 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered. While this claim was reported as Russian propaganda, it has since been confirmed by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence that the garrison of Snake Island did indeed surrender.
Much chatter has been raised online concerning the so-called ‘Ghost of Kiev’, reportedly a Ukrainian fighter ace. It has since been demonstrated that this personality does not exist, and footage representing his aerobatic exploits had been produced from video games rather than actual footage.
Other ‘hero stories’ emerged right at the start of the conflict, to be widely shared uncritically by foreign media, before turning out to be fabrications. Whether this is a result of enterprising fiction-writers on Twitter or a deliberate campaign of information warfare, I leave to the reader’s judgement.
CNN reported the ‘first American casualty of the war’ in a certain Bernie Gores, who they claim was blown up by Russian-backed separatists. It later transpired that the same Bernie Gores was reported by CNN to have been killed by the Taliban last summer, with the same photo used in both posts. Mr Gores has evidently enjoyed a very active death on social media.
Several reports have indicated Russian troops and vehicles wandering around rural Ukraine looking for food or fuel, or just generally lost. Time will tell whether these unlikely tales constitute yet more misinformation, propaganda, and information warfare.
Germany has announced that it will be sending thousands of modern anti-tank and anti-aircraft infantry weapons to Ukraine, in a reversion of its previously tentative stance on the conflict.
Ukraine’s stubborn defence has been greatly assisted by modern Western infantry weapons, particularly man-portable air defences (MANPADs) such as Stinger missiles, and anti-tank missile launchers such as the British-Swedish MBT LAW or NLAW system. The latter is a highly advanced fire-and-forget weapons system designed to destroy tanks of all sizes, including main battle tanks (MBTs). The UK provided 2000 of these to Ukraine in the lead-up to the conflict, as well as training 22,000 Ukrainian troops through Operation Orbital — equivalent to over 10% of Ukraine’s regular army.
Although highly criticised in the build-up to war for being meagre and insufficient, the aid provided to Ukraine is proving to be extremely impactful in this conflict. There is plenty of evidence of these advanced infantry weapons being used to good effect against Russian helicopters, planes, and armoured vehicles. It’s almost as if professional military advisers are better at judging what weaponry an allied army needs than verified journalists on Twitter…
Turkish cargo aircraft flew into Poland today to deliver supplies; it is likely that significant volumes of Western munitions are being transported into Ukraine by rail and road connections, though we cannot confirm this suspicion so far. Additional reports indicate that foreign volunteers may be entering Ukraine via this route.
Following an appeal from the Ukrainian government, Elon Musk has sent SpaceX’s Starlink Station satellites over Ukraine. These are expected to provide some degree of internet access and connectivity to the country even as terrestrial telecommunications infrastructure is destroyed by fighting.
Overall, the war continues to be a slow and bloody grind. If advanced Western weapons continue to be supplied to Ukraine, it will be extremely difficult for Russia to achieve a decisive victory in this war without some form of strategic innovation. The well-defended cities of Kiev, Kharkiv, Kherson, and Chernihiv will be very difficult to overcome.
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