Ukraine Conflict: Days 22-25

Fighting has continued on all fronts over the past few days. There appear to be no major territorial gains by Russia, with attrition rates for both sides difficult to estimate from the available footage alone. Mariupol remains surrounded, with daily close-quarters fighting and shelling. Russian forces remain on the outskirts of Kiev, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, and Mykolaiv, with these cities experiencing daily bombardments.

Negotiators from both sides have reportedly made moves towards a peace agreement, but the progress of negotiations remains murky.

Day 22 (Thursday)

Reports begin to emerge of widespread mistreatment of foreign volunteers by Ukraine. Allegations include passports being torn up, no next-of-kin details being taken, volunteers sent directly to the front lines in Kiev with little to no weapons, ammunition, or training, and volunteers being threatened with deadly force if they refuse or attempt to leave. In addition, a strike on Yavoriv military base earlier in the week is said to have killed many British volunteers, presumably encouraged by the earlier words of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. 

The UK has announced it will deploy a Sky Sabre anti-aircraft/anti-missile system to Poland, along with 100 troops, while the US deploys a Patriot system to Slovakia. NATO ‘Cold Response’ exercises in Norway are ongoing.

Ukrainian intelligence claims that as many as 40,000 volunteers from Bashar al-Assad’s Syria have pledged to join the conflict in Ukraine, on the side of Russia. This is likely to be exaggerated, since Assad is currently in the middle of an 11-year civil war, and could presumably make use of that manpower himself. Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu earlier claimed that 16,000 volunteers, principally from across the Arab world, had applied to join Russia’s war effort.

In a continuing purge of dissidents and ‘traitors’, Putin has arrested the Deputy Chief of the Rosgvardia, Roman Gavrilov. He is allegedly responsible for ‘squandering fuel’ or ‘leaking military information’. During the second week of the invasion, two senior FSB officials were also arrested for providing false information about Ukraine, namely Sergei Beseda and his deputy. These arrests may also have been made in order to placate Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who was alleged to have flown into a berserk rage following the loss of many Kadyrovtsy troops in Kiev during week one (due to leaks or tip-offs from the FSB). Significant numbers of ordinary middle-class Russians have left the country to places such as Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan.

Six Russian planes left Moscow for the Urals on Thursday, landed there, and returned. According to their callsigns, these planes are used to transport members of the Kremlin leadership. Russia maintains nuclear bunkers and launch facilities east of the Urals, and would presumably evacuate its leaders here if they anticipated an escalation of the conflict. However, this movement of air assets may instead have been a training exercise or an inspection of nuclear bases.

Day 23 (Friday)

Among the civilian casualties of Russian shelling, a leading Ukrainian ballet dancer has been killed.  Artem Datsyshyn, 53, died in hospital due to wounds received from shelling on the third day of the conflict.

A Ukrainian aircraft repair plant was destroyed by Russian missiles in Lviv. So far in the conflict, Russian missile strikes have been precise and effective, targeting predominantly military installations and key logistics infrastructure throughout the country. The missile corps appears to be one part of Russia’s military that has functioned effectively throughout the conflict, which may have implications for speculation concerning the state of readiness of Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

Drone footage of attacks against Russian vehicles, location unknown.

Burned out Russian vehicles near Kiev.

Russian tanks destroyed on the outskirts of Mariupol.

Day 24 (Saturday)

Russia’s hi-tech Kinzhal hypersonic missile is used for the first time and hits a weapons depot in Ivano-Frankivsk.

A senior Russian naval officer, Captain Andrei Paliy, has been killed during fighting in Mariupol. According to reports on Russian social media (since deleted), he was killed in action while leading the marines into battle. The death has since been confirmed by the Russian command in the Crimea. Paliy was the deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet, and his apparent presence in front-line infantry fighting despite holding this rank may reinforce allegations of anti-intellectualist culture in the Russian military. Another post claimed Paliy was ‘utterly alien to office work despite his senior rank’ — a strange form of praise.

While much Western equipment is lethal to the Russians, occasionally it may be lethal to the users. In particular, early in the invasion reports were emerging that the anti-aircraft systems supplied by Germany had been rotting in storage since the fall of the Soviet Union and were no longer operable (though this has yet to be confirmed). In this case, Czech-supplied grenade launchers malfunctioned after a few shots, causing minor injuries to the operators.

Day 25 (Sunday)

The Ukrainian City Council of Mariupol alleges that thousands of civilians have been deported from Mariupol to Russia during the three-week siege of the port city. These claims remain unverified. Fighting has continued throughout the city, with a surrender ultimatum refused by the defenders. Russian naval vessels shelled Mariupol on Sunday as part of the continuing siege efforts.

Footage of fighting in Mariupol has been emerging from the (neo-Nazi) Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard.

Separatists released footage of destroyed Ukrainian Army vehicles near Volnovakha, north of Mariupol.

A Ukrainian barracks in Mykolaiv was hit by a Kinzhal missile, killing 50 soldiers (according to Ukraine). The number may be significantly higher; Ukraine appears to have downplayed the number of dead during an earlier strike on Yavoriv military base. Mykolaiv is the headquarters of Ukraine’s Naval Infantry and has shown stiff resistance to Russian attacks during the first three weeks of the conflict.

According to Ukraine, a nursing home has been hit in Kremnina, near Luhansk, killing 56 people.

A dozen Russian vehicles were destroyed by artillery fire near Kiev.

Two TOR air defence systems destroyed by landmines, potentially planted by Ukrainian Special Forces. Location unknown.

A Ukrainian counter-artillery radar system was damaged by Russian shelling in East Ukraine. These are high value targets, since they track the location of enemy artillery shells and rockets in flight and pinpoint the location of the system that fired it.

Photo Credit: Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, CC-SA-2.0.

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