Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 28 February 2022 Author: Grzegorz Kuczyński
As Fight Moves Into Its Fifth Day, Russia Makes Surprisingly Slow Invasion Progress
During the first days of the invasion, Russian forces failed to capture any major cities. In fact, they are bypassing them while seeking to capture Ukraine’s two biggest cities, albeit each for a different reason. Russia is seeking to besiege the eastern city of Kharkiv because its forces cannot leave it behind while advancing on central Ukraine. The invading country is also trying to seize Kyiv to damage the morale of the Ukrainian army. According to the Pentagon, Russia has committed 75 percent of its amassed forces inside Ukraine. It is yet likely that Belarus will join Russian war efforts.
An attack from Belarusian forces would be of major significance on the northern front, to take a grip on Kyiv and possibly cut off western Ukraine from the rest of the country. This would impede weapon supplies from elsewhere in Europe while running a high risk for the country’s major military facilities that date back to the Soviet Union. Now Russian forces are attempting to seize the outskirts of Kyiv, which resulted in heavy fighting and air raids northwest and northeast of the Ukrainian capital. An assault group targeting Kyiv will be soon joined by forces marching from Chernihiv and Sumy. Russian forces are now stuck near Kyiv. On Sunday morning, they seemed close to success as their vehicles and tanks entered the city, but it was the Ukrainian tactic to let them enter before inflicting some heavy losses on them. Seeking to intimidate inhabitants, Russian forces on Monday launched multiple rocket strikes, hitting residential buildings and killing dozens of civilians. Heavy fighting was reported in southern Donbas, Mariupol, and Volnovakha. It is just a matter of time before Russian forces from Donbas join forces with those from Crimea. Russian forces seized the port of Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov. They are also advancing on to the north, towards the city of Zaporizhia. Russia might be planning to close Ukrainian forces, mostly those fighting in Donbas, in the southeastern part of the country. From Zaporizhia, it is not far to Dnipro, which is more to the north. The city will be targeted by the Russian military units heading from the northwest––but first, they need to capture Kharkiv. The defenders of the city are obstructing Russia’s plan to join their forces attacking from the south and north somewhere by the Dnipro river. The ever-stretching front line and the ever-longer supply lines for the forces going at the head of the advance are causing trouble, which is particularly evident in the south. As long as large groups of Russian troops passed through the Perekop isthmus, the pace of the Russian attack could be impressive. But the forces had to be split up. Some of them are heading towards Donbas while others are advancing on the north or the west. Already the heavy fighting for the crossing of the Dnipro river near Kherson showed that it would be very difficult for the Russians on this front, mostly due to geography. While marching towards Odesa, Russian forces would encounter the rivers that flow into the Black Sea and lagoon-like estuaries, where the well-defended Ukrainian cities are located. But the Russian forces have been slowed down at several points by the Ukrainian army that blew up bridges and launched drone raids and by some basic mistakes the Russian military has made. Russia failed to damage the Ukrainian air forces, air defense, or the command in the first two days of the invasion. Those that are fighting are usually conscripts or the columns of Rosgvardia, both unfit for front-line military operations. A mass missile fire did not destroy the morale of the Ukrainian army. Morale among Russian troops is now eroding while Moscow is losing on the information battlefield. In addition, the whole free world is showing solidarity with Ukraine and has harshly condemned Putin’s invasion that is badly affected not only by Russian oligarchs, but the entire nation.
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