On day sixteen, the Russian advance appears to have gained little ground; the capture of Volnovakha is perhaps the most significant milestone. Fighting continues around major cities, with Ukrainian combat teams launching limited counter-attacks and ambuscades while Russian MLRS systems and artillery bombard the outskirts of defended urban areas. Russian movements in most sectors appear to be limited to outflanking attempts on these cities, following the failure of urban assaults in the first week of the conflict.
If the Ukraine conflict is to be resolved on the ground, it will likely be decided by attritional factors rather than decisive battles or sieges. Besides Mariupol (and possibly Chernihiv and Mykolaiv), the Russians have failed to isolate Ukraine’s major cities from resupply and reinforcement. The highly armoured Russian forces are unlikely to succeed in urban combat in large cities. Without a decisive assault, these sieges can only be won by encirclement leading to a prolonged lack of food, water, power, and ammunition for the defenders.
Conversely, the high attrition rate of Russian vehicles seen in regular footage from the conflict indicates a way for the Ukrainians to bring an end to the invasion. Some estimates believe that up to a quarter of the Russian vehicle fleet has been disabled, destroyed, or captured thus far. If true, this could mean the Russians will be close to combat-ineffective in some sectors of the conflict. After losses of this scale, it would take significant time to regroup, reorganise, and consolidate under-strength units.
Note that all map sources are hypothetical, and should be taken with a grain of salt. Even in the 21st Century, the ‘fog of war’ still revents accurate knowledge of precise dispositions on either side.
Russian separatists have captured the city of Volnovakha, north of Mariupol. Mariupol remains cut off from the rest of the country, with the siege lines tightening.
To the north of Kharkiv, Izyum was shelled throughout the day. The town has now been mostly captured by Russian forces, with seemingly less than a third of the urban area in Ukrainian hands. Izyum is located on the important Kiev-Kharkiv highway, which has been severed since the first week of the invasion.
A Russian recon/artillery spotting drone was shot down near Zhytomyr today. Footage of Russian recon drones has become more prevalent in recent days, following their mysterious absence in week one of the conflict. However, many of these drones are outdated; this Forpost UAV was licenced from Israel in 2010, based on a design from 1998, and does not appear to have been significantly innovated upon in recent years. The Russians had intended to create a domestic military drone industry, but for various reasons they remain behind the rest of the world in this area.
This footage shows a typical Ukrainian operation 100km east of Kiev.
Russian airstrikes have hit the cities of Dnipro, Lutsk, and Ivano-Frankivsk for the first time on day sixteen. This could signal a broadening of the conflict zones, or simply a change in bombing routes in order to stretch Ukrainian air defences.
Following bombardment of Lutsk yesterday, there are explosions from aerial bombardment on the Ukrainian-Belarussian border, near Bukhlichy. This appears to be a mistake or accident, since no concentrations of Russian or Ukrainian forces are noted in the vicinity of the airstrike.
Evacuation routes have been published from Enerhodar, and the towns northwest of Kiev. Thousands of refugees have arrived in convoys from encircled cities, despite the media’s focus on those humanitarian corridors that have failed. Evacuation corridor maps have also been widely publicised.
A T-72 variant was hit by anti-tank weapon in this drone footage (presumably an RPG rather than a more sophisticated ATGM), and appears not to be disabled.
The Ukrainians claim to have captured over 100 Russian prisoners near Sumy. If true, this could indicate a significant shift in the conflict. If Russian morale is low enough for mass surrenders, it is unlikely they will achieve significant momentum on any combat front.
China has refused to supply Russia with aircraft parts after sanctions prevent the use of Boeing or Airbus components or maintenance. Kazakhstan has cancelled commercial flights to Russia after the withdrawal of insurance services for such flights due to Western sanctions.
The Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, announced that Russia will allow foreign fighters to participate in its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. Several volunteers have already arrived from Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, and Shogiu claimed that 16,000 applications had been received from the Middle East ‘from those who had previously fought with Russia against the Islamic State’. Fighters from the Central African Republic released a statement in support of Russia.
Gulf states are so far maintaining OPEC production quotas, and resisting US requests for boosted production. Energy prices in the west remain high due to sanctions against Russia.
B-52 strategic bomber patrols continue over Europe, as this dramatic photograph shows.
Like all wars, the situation on the ground depends on the momentum of the attackers and the resilience of the defenders. It is hard to properly assess either from the footage available, but there are promising signs for the Ukrainians that the Russian attack may not be capable of grinding out a victory in the face of determined resistance, advanced weapons, and international sanctions.
Photo Credit: Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. CC-SA-2.0.