War in Ukraine, Day 5. Putin keeps bombing Ukrainian cities Syria-style

Ukrainian army soldiers fighting infantry vehicle flag Feb-2022 (Photo: instagram.com/army_inform)

Photo: instagram.com/army_inform 

Daily review, Russian Aggression

Edited by: A. N.

Editor’s Note

February 28, the fifth day of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, saw Russian escalation in attacks on civilian infrastructure and residential areas. With Putin’s failed blitz stalled, Russian intensified artillery, rocket, and missile attacks on towns and cities across the frontlines. Russian missiles hit Chernihiv, Kharkiv. Also, a residential neighborhood in the east-Ukrainian city of Kharkiv was reportedly struck by cluster munitions, causing high civilian casualties. Towns north of Kyiv have been consistently attacked, the Azov See port city of Mariupol has been under constant artillery and aerial strikes.

1 March 2022: Day 6

The report is based on media reports, expert analyses and official information posted online.

While generally seen as reliable, the latter must be expected to prioritize information that helps maintain morals and spirit. While we see reports on Russian casualties and setbacks, the information on similar consequences within the Armed Forces of Ukraine is lacking. Additionally, the information will not divulge information that might compromise security.

That said, I believe in the Ukrainian spirit and resilience. I, therefore, believe Russia has once again greatly underestimated Ukraine.

Map showing the assessment of the military situation in Ukraine as of the morning of 1 March 2022. Source. ~

Map showing the assessment of the military situation in Ukraine as of the morning of 1 March 2022. Source.

Situation

During Monday, Feb.28, Russian troops regrouped and accumulated armored vehicles and missile and artillery weapons in certain areas, primarily to surround and capture Kyiv and major cities of Ukraine, including Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Odesa, Kherson, and Mariupol. A significant part of military equipment comes from the territory of Belarus and through the occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Satellites images recorded a huge column of Russian equipment near Kyiv. Maxar claims that the total length of the column exceeded 27 kilometers (or 17 miles).

Yesterday afternoon northern rear-guard columns of equipment and fuel northeast from the village of Ivanky in Kyiv Oblast (50 km NE of Kyiv). The southern vanguard of the column of vehicles was east of Antonov Airport in Gostomel, close to Bucha and Irpin, scene of some of the heaviest fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv during the last couple of days.

At 08:00 (Kyiv time) the General Staff reported that:

  • From the beginning of the day, the enemy regrouped troops and fired missiles and bombs from the air. He attempted to land tactical landings. Widely uses sabotage and reconnaissance teams to attack civilian and military infrastructure.
  • Defensive battles continue in the Siverskyi region in order to prevent the enemy from advancing to the capital from the north-eastern direction.
  • In the suburbs of Chernihiv, the appearance of separate enemy DRGs was noted, which, with the support of armored vehicles, tried to break into the city, but were destroyed by Ukrainian defenders.
  • In other areas, tank and mechanized units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with the support of aircraft and artillery, continue to conduct defensive battles on the occupied borders. Fire defeat of the enemy by all available means is carried out.
  • In Slobozhanshchyna, mechanized brigades and BTGs of Airborne Assault Troops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from the operational group are destroying the manpower and military equipment of the Russian occupiers, who are trying to get in and restore the position on the first line of defense.
  • The Kyiv Defence Forces continue to defend the city, maintain the outer borders of the defense and critical state infrastructure, preventing the occupation units from approaching the suburbs of the capital. Active measures are being taken to identify and destroy the DRG of the enemy, who, ignoring the norms of international humanitarian law, disguises himself in the military uniform of the Armed Forces, National Guard, and National Police of Ukraine to penetrate Kyiv through the combat formations of our troops.
  • The steady defense of our troops rapidly lowers the morale of the enemy and his will to win. Cases of desertion and voluntary captivity by entire units have been reported.

Separate units of the most capable units of the Armed Forces of Belarus have begun moving to the State Border of Ukraine in the Volyn direction.

The territory of Belarus continues to be used for combat sorties of army, operational, tactical, and special aircraft of the RF Armed Forces to perform tasks in Ukraine.

Planes of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation resumed conducting air reconnaissance of objects on the territory of Ukraine from the airspace of the Republic of Belarus.

According to the General Staff, Ukrainian fighter pilots intercepted and shot down two Russian planes during a defiant air raid by the occupiers on Vasylkiv and Brovary. Anti-aircraft missile divisions S-300 reportedly shot down three airplanes According to preliminary data, these were Su-30 and Su-35. An anti-aircraft missile system Buk M-1 shot down a cruise missile and an enemy helicopter near Kyiv.

Ukrainian Su-25 attack aircraft worked in units and pairs and fired several missile and bomb strikes at columns of armored vehicles and enemy manpower in Kyiv and Zhytomyr oblasts. The Su-24m of the Air Force inflicted at least four devastating bombings on tank columns, columns of mechanized equipment, motor convoys with fuel, and lubricants in the Chernihiv Oblast and near Berdyansk.

During the last 24 hours, we have seen videos of Bayraktar TB2 destroying an enemy tank and two anti-aircraft missile systems Buk” M-1.

Ukrainian Bayraktar destroying a Russian BUK.

Ukraine has destroyed additional Russian equipment – 20 BM-21 Grad, 96 tanks, and 8 refueling stations.

It is alleged that the Russian tactical groups received an order to destroy the mobile communication towers in the course of advancing deep into the territory of Ukraine.

Humanitarian

Fighting in Ukraine has so far pushed roughly a half million people across the country’s borders, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reported on Monday. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi has stated that the humanitarian consequences on civilians of this conflict will be devastating. The agency expects up to four million Ukrainians could flee if the situation deteriorates further.

Russian occupation forces are destroying infrastructure and launch missile and bomb strikes on settlements. “Since the beginning of the open invasion, Russia has launched 113 Iskander and Caliber surface-to-sea tactical missiles at peaceful towns and villages in Ukraine. This is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and requires an investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.” Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In Kharkiv, Russian troops are shelling residential buildings en masse. According to media, yesterday there were 9 dead and 37 wounded.

In Chernihiv and its environs, the Russians shelled residential areas, including a kindergarten.

As a result of the air raid, Maruiupol is left with almost no electricity supply. However, the city is held by the Ukrainian army.

In Okhtyrka, after the enemy shelling, many victims were taken out of the rubble.

Legal

According to the General Staff of Ukraine, the most common war crimes of the Russian occupiers:

  • the use of weapons against civilians,
  • bombing, rocket and artillery shelling of residential areas, which leads to the destruction of civilian infrastructure. During the deployment of a column of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, the aggressor fired on the homes of residents in the Chernihiv Oblast from Talalaivka to Nizhyn. On their way through the village of Borodyanka, Russian tanks began to deliberately destroy infrastructure and housing, and a separate group of tanks opened fire on high-rise buildings.
  • The enemy, for cover, uses state symbols and uniforms of the Armed Forces, the National Guard and the National Police of Ukraine. Ukrainian flags are hung on columns of Russian military equipment. Such cases have been observed in the settlements of Peremoha, Nova Basan, Kyiv Oblast, and on the Krasnostav-Nizhyn highway in the Chernihiv Oblast.

Ukraine reports of cases where Russian forces hang a white flag on his vehicle ostensibly to surrender. However, after approaching the Ukrainian positions, the occupiers opens fire.

The office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Monday said it will seek court approval to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The move comes just days after Russia’s invasion of its neighbour and prosecutor Karim Khan said on Friday he was following developments with concern.

Environmental

Nothing to report

New developments

According to Ukraine Armed Forces, there is a high probability that Lukashenko will attack Ukraine.

On a positive note, and due to adverse weather conditions in the coming days, amphibious landing in the Black Sea is assessed as unlikely.

The networks of Ukrainian operators have been made unavailable for Russian telephone numbers.

Support

Neutral Switzerland has joined EU sanctions against Russia in a break with the past. Its banned five oligarchs close to Putin from entering the country. Russians held nearly $11.33 billion there, Swiss National Bank data shows.

Immediate granting to Ukraine prospects of accession were supported by the presidents of eight EU countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. “We firmly believe that Ukraine deserves the immediate prospect of joining the European Union,” is written in an open letter from the heads of state. Hopefully, more nations will follow the example shortly-

Presently the situation seems to have become a race between the Russian forces and the delivery of urgently needed defensive weapons to Ukraine.

Assessments

Michael Kofman, Research Program Director in the Russia Studies Program at CNA and a Fellow at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, DC yesterday offered the following sober analysis of the situation:

Long thread about how I think the first 96 hours have gone, still very early/incomplete impressions. The initial Russian operation was premised on terrible assumptions about Ukraine’s ability & will to fight, and an unworkable concept of operations. Moscow badly miscalculated. The Russian operation was focused on getting to Kyiv quickly, forcing a surrender, and pushing a small number of units forward quickly in a way that avoided large engagements with Ukrainian forces. They’ve been skirting major cities, going for key road junctions/smaller towns, etc.

Why did Moscow choose this course of action? A few theories: they didn’t take Ukraine & its military seriously. They wanted to avoid attrition & devastation because of consequences for pol goals in Ukraine, costs of casualties, and they want to hide the costs from the public. It is also possible that Russian military planners genuinely wanted to avoid inflicting high levels of destruction given how unpopular this war was going to be at home. Most Russian soldiers are young & have little interest in fighting Ukrainians as an opponent.

What I’ve seen so far suggests that Russian troops were unaware they would be

ordered to invade and appear reluctant to prosecute this war. They don’t see

Ukrainians as adversaries and the military didn’t prepare them for this campaign. Outside of Chechens, morale seems low. This is an unworkable concept of operations. It seems they tried to win quickly and cheaply via ‘thunder runs,’ hoping to avoid the worst of sanctions & Western outrage. They’ve ended up in the worst of all worlds, trickling more resources into a failed strategy.

However, this is barely a few days into the war. Ukraine has done remarkably well, but no analysts (except maybe in Moscow) expected Russia to defeat the largest country in Europe within 4 days, especially given UKR military capability.

On the shambolic effort – Russian units are not really fighting as BTGs. They’re driving down roads in small detachments, pushing recon and airborne units forward. Tanks often by themselves and vice versa. Fires and enablers are not used decisively, and often not used at all. Outside of the fighting NW of Kyiv, we have a lot of smaller detachments, tanks, IFVs, often recon or VDV units pressing down roads and into cities. Small formations regularly outrunning logistics, without support, or letting support & artillery get ambushed behind them.

Beyond large numbers of units strewn out in small detachments & checkpoints, we have the inverse situation as well. Long trains of Russian vehicles stuck in their own traffic jams, entering across the border. Air defences not covering them but stuck on the road with them.

As companies and platoons run ahead to seize points, logistics can’t keep up, and they’re not being effectively covered by support. Most of the fights I’ve seen are small skirmishes, especially on the outskirts of major cities. These may be intense, but no major battles.

The Russian failure is driven by the fact that they’re attempting to conduct a full- scale invasion without the mil operation that it would require, thinking they can avoid most of the fighting. This has led to not only unworkable force employment but lack of employment. The truth is that large parts of the Russian military have yet to enter this war, with many of the capabilities still unused. Not to take away from Ukraine its great mil performance and resilience, but I see a lot of early judgments and conclusions that need moderation.

In the first 4 days, Russian tactical aviation, except for some Su-25s, largely sat on the sidelines. So have most combat helicopters. They have hundreds of both deployed in the area. Russia’s air force is missing in action, and largely unused.

The Russian military sought to use cruise/ballistic missiles to destroy/suppress UKR air defence and target airbases. However, they’re not flying CAPs, or offensive counter-air and only today have I spotted the first Su-34 bomber conducting strikes.

Except for heavy shelling around Kharkiv, the use of fires have been limited compared to how the Russian mil typically operates. Sadly, I think this will change. Russian mil is an artillery army first, and it has used a fraction of its available fires in this war thus far.

The bulk of the Russian military has yet to enter the fight. Outside Kharkiv, most of the 1st Guards Tank Army, and 20th Army, are just sitting there. They pushed a few BTGs a considerable distance past Sumy, but I think a lot of Russia’s forces are still on the sidelines.

Another point, Russian losses are significant, and they have had a number of troops captured, but they have been advancing along some axes. In general, Ukrainians are posting evidence of their combat successes, but the opposite is less true, distorting the overall picture. Hence my next thought. In a desperate effort to keep the war hidden from the Russian public, framing this as a Donbas operation, Moscow has completely ceded the information environment to Ukraine, which has galvanized morale and support behind Kyiv. Another miscalculation.

I won’t comment on the host of official claims made in this war so far, except that I think Kyiv is doing a great job shaping perceptions & the information environment. That said, folks should approach official claims critically in a time of war.

Looking at the military effort, I think Russian forces are getting some basics really wrong, but we’re also learning things that are probably not true about the Russian military as well. They’re not really fighting the way they train and organize for a major conventional war. The assumptions have Grozny 1994 vibes, while some of the operations remind me of classic military organisation driven blunders. Sending airborne air assault brigades or naval infantry in early on to ‘do their thing,’ even though it is unnecessary, risky, or impractical.

What’s next? Russia’s political leadership is still not conceding their plan’s failure, trying to take Kyiv quickly. But we’re seeing them open up greater use of fires, strikes, and air power. Sadly, I expect the worst is yet ahead, and this war could get a lot more ugly.

I was going to add, that I’ve seen and read other explainer threads out there about the Russian military failure. I differ with some of those explanations, they’re generally not coming from Russian mil experts, and 4 days into war might be a bit early for conclusive statements. Also, looking at day 5, seeing major adjustments. The Russian military is suspending unsupported thunder runs, resupplying, and reorganizing. Ukraine’s military has performed very well, but I think we’re going to see a different Russian approach moving forward.

Recognizing that a bad situation might be about to go from bad to worse, the West should consider ramping up its support one more notch. In the face of a potential unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the consequences of the full-scale war, and given NATOs strategic concept of committing the Alliance to intervene in conflicts that affect European security, the West needs to establish its RED LINES. What actions will trigger a military response?

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Edited by: A. N.

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