Despite speculation that the attack had stalled over the weekend, Russia continued to make gains on Day Five.
We learned that the city of Kherson on the south coast of Ukraine has apparently been surrounded by Russian troops. Presumably a crossing of the Dnieper has been effected to the north, near the Kharkhova dam that was destroyed yesterday morning. To the west of Kherson, the city of Mykolaiv apparently remains in Ukrainian hands, separated from Kherson by Russian forces.
In the east of this front, Russian troops occupied Berdyansk en route to Mariupol, which remains under siege from Russian and separatist forces. They also pushed north to the Dnieper past the town of Tokmak which saw fighting yesterday, and are approximately 20km south of the city of Zaporizhzhia. The Mariupol area has seen intense fighting today, with numerous wrecked vehicles recorded at Gnutuvo and Shchastia.
This video near Mariupol of a Ukrainian civilian driving past a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), a form of mobile artillery, as it struggles through heavy mud is rather surreal. Particularly if the MLRS turns out to be Russian.
A lot of Ukrainian materiel has been destroyed or captured by Luhansk separatists around Shchastia. Unlike the official Russian army, the separatists appear to be uploading this kind of footage freely.
Sumy and Chernihiv
In the northeast front, the Russian advance has cut off most of the main highways into Sumy, which has been the site of heavy fighting for five days. If this wide encircling movement is able to occupy the roads near the town of Romny, Sumy will be isolated.
To the northeast of Kiev, the main highway to the city of Chernihiv remains open, though the city is surrounded to the north and west. A 200km Russian salient between Sumy and Chernihiv might complete the encirclement of Chernihiv in the coming days, although there are currently no indications that this front has advanced today.
Fighting around Kiev continues to be fierce. A military radar communications facility was hit earlier in the day around the Brovary district.
Smoke was seen rising from the direction of Bucha, a district to the northwest of the city centre. Further to the west, a wide Russian outflanking movement captured the town of Borodyanka, though a successful Ukrainian supply raid allegedly took out seven logistics vehicles.
Towards the end of the day, an enormous 17 mile long convoy of Russian vehicles and logistics trucks was stuck in a traffic jam towards Kiev from the north. If this convoy deploys for battle without being hit by Ukrainian air power or long-range bombardment, we can expect a massive assault on the outskirts of Kiev tomorrow. Towards the end of the day some outlets were reporting that this convoy had been destroyed by long-range artillery and drone strikes near Bucha.
The Kyiv Independent also reported that a column of 56 Chechen tanks was destroyed on the road to Hostomel yesterday, but we have yet to verify this impressive claim.
Whether through strategy or necessity, the Russians are encircling Ukrainian cities through the countryside, which is favourable for their armour-heavy battle formations. Direct assaults on Ukrainian cities have been almost universally repulsed with heavy attacker casualties. However, the Russians may have enough mass to simply flood through the countryside and isolate major cities over the next week. It is not certain how effective their defence will be without outside supply and reinforcement.
According to analysts, the Ukrainian airforce continues to pose a significant threat for Russian troops in the field. One possible reason is that since the Russians and Ukrainians largely use the same hardware, helicopters, and planes, the identify-friend-or-foe (IFF) systems in Russian anti-aircraft platforms is unable to distinguish enemy aircraft from their own. In addition, the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 has allegedly been racking up successful strikes against both Russian convoys and air defence platforms, as well as a strike against what is claimed to be a Russian train in Crimea transporting fuel to the front.
The fighting around Kharkiv continues to be brutal. Today footage emerged of what appears to be a rocket attack against a residential complex in the city. Numerous observers are confident that this constitutes a war crime under the Geneva Convention.
The Russian airforce was allegedly in action in this sector today, and a completely obliterated T-80BV was recorded near the city.
Despite holding the fancy name of ‘disposable rocket-assisted flamethrowers’ these RPV-16s below are thermobaric weapons. They are most often used for clearing out trenches, buildings, and field fortifications. The commentariat appears to reserve the use of the word ‘thermobaric’ for Russian weapons, but they are in use on both sides. It is the manner of use that may or may not constitute a war crime.
The Russians appear to have made little progress in Kharkiv itself. However, their assaults on the outskirts of the city and periodic artillery bombardments are presumably tying down Ukrainian troops while Russian armour makes progress to outflank the city via the surrounding countryside.
Negotiations have begun in Belarus. Journalists were ordered to leave the room so that private discussion could take place. There are rumours that no progress was made during the talks; the Ukrainian delegation allegedly demanded that Russia leave the Crimea, which is an unlikely scenario. If true, we hope this is a negotiating tactic rather than an attempt to thwart peace talks.
Volodymyr Zelensky has applied for EU membership, amid calls to fast-track Ukraine’s application. Whether this would involve the EU as a direct party to the war in Ukraine remains to be seen; it certainly underlines the Kremlin’s claims to legitimate security concerns regarding Ukraine’s drift westwards.
Earlier today, Putin and Macron apparently spoke remotely for 90 mins. Putin reiterates three demands for ‘unconditional accounting of Russia’s legitimate security interests’:
- Ukrainian recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea
- Demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine
- Ukrainian commitment to neutral status regarding the West, the EU, and NATO
American B-52 nuclear-capable bombers are still in the skies over Europe, as several observers have been following.
Some footage shows Ukrainian troops acquiring night vision gear, which will be very important for much of the fighting.
Russian SSBNs (strategic nuclear submarines) have left port since February 23rd, according to satellite imagery. Russia is increasing its strategic nuclear readiness.
The UK has also banned Russian ships from entering its ports. Whether this constitutes a sanction or a response to the Russophobia growing on social media as a result of this invasion, we leave to the discretion of the reader.
Challenges to Tracking the Ukraine Conflict
As the conflict progresses, we will have to update our methods of tracking the progress of the war. Either due to massive popular demand or state DDOS attacks, the various mapping services which help to place the conflict in context have been disabled throughout the day, while media archiving services have experienced such long queues that paywalled reporting is rendered essentially inaccessible.
In addition, much of the materiel being recorded by civilians and uploaded to social media is uncertain, since these may be vehicles destroyed in previous days and thus do not help to track the combat fronts. As the war progresses, the increasing piles of knocked-out vehicles and other military refuse will require more sophisticated methods of us.
Despite these obstacles, we continue to do our best in filtering through the misinformation of mainstream media, and collating the reports of our volunteer analysts to bring you up-to-date information on the conflict in Ukraine.
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