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Ukraine Conflict: Day Ten

5th March, 2300

Reports of Russian helicopters and jets downed by MANPADs came in from all sectors of the conflict today, particularly around Kiev and Chernihiv to the north, and Mykolaiv and Odessa to the south. This is likely related to recent shipments of the Polish Piorun MANPAD surface to air missile system.

The media has been particularly concerned about shelling of ‘humanitarian corridors’ set up to allow the evacuation of some 215,000 civilians from Volnovakha and Mariupol; at the same time we have reports of successful ambushes of Russian and separatist forces in this area by the elite units surrounded in Mariupol.

The earlier reports from both Russian and Ukrainian sources concerning 70 fighter jets being sent to Ukraine from Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovakia have been denied by those countries: this appears to be yet more misinformation. Officials from those countries cited the small size of their air forces and the absurdity of donating a huge portion of their own air defence to another country gratis. We apologise for reporting this allegation (note that we did not report it as fact).

The misinformation appears to have originated from Russia, and may have been intended to excuse the abysmal performance of its airforce thus far in the conflict.

Kiev and Chernihiv

Graphic and disturbing footage from Kiev appears to show a Russian mechanised infantry contingent destroyed in heavy fighting around the northwest districts of Kiev (Irpin, Bucha). We will not show the footage here.

Two Ukrainian counterattacks to the north of the city appear to have met with some success. Due to the northwest counterattack around Bucha and Irpin, the Hostomel airport is apparently contested, which will limit the ability of the Russians to supply the front of their 64km logistics traffic jam with fuel and rations. A senior Russian commander, Andrei Sukhovetsky, was allegedly killed by sniper fire in this sector on day eight or nine.

The northeast counterattack appears to have secured some of the distance towards Chernihiv, which is now potentially cut off from resupply; Russian advance forces appear to have covered the 300km distance from Troebortnoe to Kiev, and the town of Kozelets on the Kiev-Chernihiv highway is contested. These advance forces appear to be mechanised and operating actively to the east of Kiev. The main highways to the southeast linking Kiev and Kharkiv appear to be threatened, but it is uncertain whether the Russian forces have the strength or supplies to contest this region effectively if the concentrated forces in Kiev are able to mount a counterattack.

Adapted from work by Viewsridge; CC BY-SA 4.0

Aircraft Losses

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence today claimed 5 downed Russian warplanes and 4 destroyed helicopters; this claim is mostly substantiated by live footage, unlike certain other claims. (They also claim to have sunk 2 Russian ships, which is very interesting; unfortunately we have no further information on this hypothetical naval action). There has been much discussion about the anaemic performance of the Russian Air Force in this conflict.

Su-25, RF-93026, near Mykolaiv.

Warplane downed, pilot captured, near Mykolaiv. The pilot claims to be operating out of an air base in Crimea. Note that showing images of POWs can constitute a ‘war crime’ according to Article 13 of the Geneva Conventions; this is actually quite fascinating and merits a discussion of its own. 

There are certainly circumstances wherein the recording of POWs would logically constitute a war crime, such as the recording of humiliating or abusive treatment. There are also cultures in which simply being recorded as a prisoner would cause a catastrophic loss of honour and prestige. However, in many instances, being recorded as a prisoner in the absence of humiliating treatment might actually be beneficial for the POW, since it lowers the likelihood of being quietly murdered by one’s captors.

Either one or two Russian planes were shot down over Chernihiv. The following footage shows Russian pilots eject from a downed plane; at least one pilot died on impact, potentially due to a faulty parachute. We will not show the image here.

High quality footage of a Russian helicopter downed by MANPADs, either in Kiev or Mykolaiv according to other reports.

Sumy

Sumy is now completely cut off and subject to heavy fighting as the Russians attempt to take the city.

Several hundred Indian citizens and students appear to be trapped in Sumy. They have released this video prior to an attempt to leave the city. The city is low on drinking water and food (both are scarce and strictly rationed) following a siege of several days; similar reports emerged from Mariupol two days ago.

In sieges such as this, it is quite possible that the military has the rations and supplies to last for an extended duration whereas the civilian population does not. The presence of a civilian population can be an asset for the defender since it prevents the attacker from utilising their full strength in artillery. African students and citizens have allegedly been prevented from leaving by the Ukrainian garrison; however, Russian shelling also makes safe exit from Sumy an unlikely prospect.

Kharkiv

Although the date of the footage cannot be verified, Ukrainian ambushes and counterattacks appear to have captured or destroyed several dozen Russian vehicles in the vicinity of Kharkiv.

As snow continues to fall in this region, the Ukrainians will likely be benefiting from access to the buildings in Kharkiv that are centrally-heated and connected to utilities. The Russians, on the other hand, are stuck outside in the snow in their vehicles. Since the Geneva Conventions frown on depriving a city of its access to utilities, this is a new and interesting aspect of modern siege warfare that appears to give an advantage to the defender.

Adapted from work by Viewsridge; CC BY-SA 4.0

Mariupol

MRLS captured near Mariupol by Ukrainian forces, 5 Russians killed, possible ambush. Ukrainian special forces announced last week that they would not take Russian artillerymen (i.e. crew of these vehicles) as POWs.

Zaporizhzhia

Instead of advancing directly on the city of Zaporizhzhia, Russian forces around Enerhodar have driven east to secure the towns of Orikhiv and Polohy. This further isolates Ukrainian forces fighting on the eastern front. Whether these units are intending to pivot northwards and effect a wide encirclement of Zaporizhzhia, or continue east to attack forces around Donetsk, we will see in the coming days.

Adapted from work by Viewsridge; CC BY-SA 4.0

Ukrainian convoy destroyed en route to Mariupol, with some vehicles captured and repurposed.

Mykolaiv and Odessa

Ukrainian forces claim to have secured Mykolaiv and repelled Russian forces. The past few days have seen footage of successful airstrikes and ambushes against small Russian convoys in this area, while several aircraft were downed here today. Mykolaiv is the HQ of the Ukrainian Naval Infantry, a relatively elite mechanised infantry force.

A Russian Mi-8AMTSh attack helicopter was also downed near Odessa.

Other

Russian state TV reports a captured Ukrainian BTR-4. The thick carpet of snow implies this took place in the east or northeast of the theatre.

A Ukrainian D-30 howitzer, transport trucks, and armoured vehicle are reported to be obliterated in Trekhizbenka. However, Trekhizbenka is in Russia – either the location is wrong or there’s another Trekhizbenka in Ukraine that doesn’t show up on maps; alternatively the image could be propaganda.

Finally, we see footage of a Russian supply train near Rostov-on-Don loaded with civil engineering equipment. Perhaps they will begin building actual roads for their logistics vehicles, two weeks into the conflict.

Photo Credit: Фото Дмитрий Муравский, Ukraine Ministry of Defence. CC SA 2.0.

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