Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 3 March 2022 Author: Grzegorz Kuczyński
Day 7 of Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kharkiv, Mariupol, and Kherson Come under Heavy Fire
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine entered its next day on March 2, some heavy fighting was reported. The Russian convoy is stalled but its forces are encircling Ukraine’s bigger cities to destroy them. At the end of the day, forces defending Kherson were in the worst situation on the southern front. But the Russian offensive on Kyiv slowed down.
For the last two-three days, the Ukrainian military has kept the Russians at a safe distance from the capital. The Russians attacked from the northwest and seized the Gostomel airfield yet sustained heavy losses. Now Russian forces are trying to pull large battalions on the left bank of the Dnipro river, advancing from Chernihiv. Logistics problems are stalling a massive Russian convoy that was pushing its way toward Kyiv. Thus, although the Russian command has developed a strategy after a failed strategy of “Blitzkrieg,” Russian forces, which are penetrating Ukraine’s territory, are now running out of gas and food. However, the Ukrainian military, including the country’s territorial defense troops, is hitting the enemy’s food and fuel supplies. Heavy fighting continues in Kharkiv. After a failed assault on the city last Sunday, Russian forces are increasingly relying on artillery fire, destroying the city and killing more civilians. But the invader cannot leave such a big urban area behind. It is not only about propaganda––as Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second largest city and was in the past the capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic––but also military considerations. If not occupied, the Russian military cannot capture Ukraine’s major cities along the middle flow of the Dnipro river––Cherkasy, Kremenchuk, or Dnipro. As Ukrainian forces are fiercely defending the city, Russian troops are incapable of cutting off a large Ukrainian military group in Donbas. The Ukrainian military is preventing the enemy from making bigger territorial gains. Russian forces are unleashing a barrage of artillery fire on the neighboring towns (including Volnovakha, inhabited by some 20,000 people). The fate of Mariupol, which is now besieged by the Russians on land and at sea, will be decisive. The Russian military is using the same strategy it did in Kharkiv, Kyiv (albeit to a limited extent because the convoy is still far from the Ukrainian capital), or Kherson (a barrage of artillery fire). It seems that Russian forces are planning to level one of the Ukrainian cities off the ground, making it a frightening example for others. The mayor of the northeastern Ukrainian town of Konotop had been given an ultimatum by Russian forces to surrender or face being wiped out by artillery. As reported on Wednesday evening, Russian forces might have seized the city of Kherson. If it is true and the Ukrainian military fails to reclaim their positions as in other cities, the southern city of Kherson will be the first Russian-controlled one. During the first seven days of the war, Russia sustained many casualties and lost many pieces of military hardware. Ukrainian military officials say that more than 7,000 Russian servicemen have been killed. The Pentagon estimated that Russian forces had fired 450 missiles in the past seven days while about 80 percent of the Russian troops that Moscow massed along Ukraine’s borders have crossed into the country. This means that Russia will be soon short of reserve forces. The Russians have not been able to dominate the airspace, which is a failure for the Kremlin. Despite Russia’s vastly larger armed forces, Ukraine’s airspace remains contested while Ukrainian warplanes are wreaking havoc on the enemy. Russian military strategists underestimated the enemy and the territory as military forces need to cover huge distances. In addition, Ukraine’s advantage is that its territorial depth is immense in the center and the west, thus where it borders NATO states.
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