- North (assessed RFAF Main Effort). Reporting indicates a significant column of vehicles (stung out over approximately 40 miles) moving from the Belarussian border towards the Hostomel (Antonov) Airport northwest of Kyiv. It is assessed that this force will probably be used to isolate Kyiv from the west by encircling to the west and south – likely in order to restrict supplies to Ukrainian defenders and prevent the withdrawal of Ukrainian government/military personnel once an assault on Kyiv begins. Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) are likely taking a tactical pause to allow logistics and planning to catch-up with manoeuvre elements and to adjust tactics to counter Ukrainian defences. RFAF elements out of Belgorod have also reached Nova Basan, approximately 65km due east of Kyiv.
- Northeast. Kharkiv and Sumy both reportedly remain under Ukrainian control. On 28 February, the RFAF used Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), likely BM-30 with sub-munitions, against a residential area in Kharkiv. Multiple civilian casualties are reported. RFAF have reportedly entered Trostyanets’ south of Sumy, likely as part of an attempt to bypass Sumy and re-gain momentum.
- East. Limited movement of front lines around Luhansk and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) with the exception of a small advance north to capture Novoaydar and Nova Astrakhan. Ukrainian forces reportedly hold the line at Sievierodonetsk and Strobilsk. However, in the south a break-out from Donetsk is likely to have linked up with forces from the Southern Axis and it is a highly likely that Mariupol has been encircled and isolated.
- South. Fighting is ongoing in Kherson and Mykolaiv likely in an attempt to secure crossings west of the Dnieper River for future phases. RFAF elements from Crimea are also reported to be advancing north up the east bank of the Dnieper River towards Zaporizhzhia. Russia claimed to have secured the nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia – a claim Ukraine denies. It is likely that the northern thrust is intended to isolate Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) fighting in the east and prevent resupply/reinforcement/withdrawal.
Strategic / Political
Talks between Russia and Ukraine occurred on 28 February, in an undisclosed location near the Belarussian border. Although the talks began with no pre-conditions, it is almost certain no agreement was reached by the opposing sides. Belarus is seeking to enact constitutional reform which allows the basing of Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus. Belarus is highly likely to be mobilising forces to join the Russian invasion on the axis to Kyiv. In Russia, sanctions are beginning to impact on the domestic population, and it is likely that Russian popular support for the campaign is relatively low. Russian Information Operations (IO) have been undermined by the sheer amount of international support and IO campaigns to support the Ukrainians.
Five days into the campaign, Russia has almost certainly failed to meet initial objectives and timelines. It is a common assessment that Russia believed that it could swiftly capture urban centres and decapitate the Ukrainian government whilst fixing or destroying the UAF east of the Dnieper. Staunch Ukrainian resistance, lethal aid from abroad, Ukrainian IO, and severe logistic/tactics issues have prevented Russia from maintaining the initiative and claiming a swift victory. Morale among Russian soldiers (with the exception of the Chechen Battalion Tactical Group (BTGs)) is reportedly low, with some captured Russian soldiers claiming that they did not know of the invasion and have stated they were told they were deployed on a ‘training exercise’ until they crossed the Ukrainian border. Other Russian soldiers are reported to have been told that the invasion would have popular support and Russophone Ukrainians would welcome them as liberators.
Low morale and effective asymmetric tactics from the UAF are likely to have significantly reduced RFAF operational effectiveness, and it is likely that a change in tactics will occur in the next 24-48 hours. Previous attempts to bypass towns and surge ahead to key infrastructure/junctions and crossings with small mechanised/armoured/VDV units is not allowing for the concentration of force and massing of fires, leading to units becoming isolated and defeated. Russian air power and fires have not been used effectively thus far, creating freedom of manoeuvre for UAF defenders. This is likely due to a lack of Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) available, limited capability among RFAF pilots to conduct a wide variety of missions, and failure to secure Control of the Airspace (COAS).
It is likely the RFAF will adapt their Tactics Techniques and Procedures to re-gain the initiative and operate more effectively against UAF resistance. It is likely that the daylight hours of 1 March will be used to reconstitute, refuel and re-arm, as well as build stocks of munitions prior to a renewed offensive. The lack of Russian COAS and a failure to maintain momentum during daylight hours is likely to cause a shift to conducting offensive operations in the hours of darkness. Within the next 24-48 hours it is likely that there will be a shift in RFAF tactics towards their traditional doctrine for near-peer conventional operations and therefore we are likely to observe:
- Use of massed fires to support manoeuvre elements, particularly on the break-in to urban areas (Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia). This will cause significant destruction to residential and industrial infrastructure.
- Increased use of Fast Air using dumb munitions in support of tactical actions. This is unlikely to be accurate and will cause significant risk of civilian casualties and collateral damage.
- Denial of communications infrastructure, through both physical destruction and Electronic Warfare to reduce Ukrainian IO opportunities, prevent the documentation of collateral damage (and war crimes), and to degrade UAF communications.
- Commitment of larger elements of RFAF as complete BTGs rather than the piece-meal use of unsupported sub-units.
- Commitment of Belarussian and Chechen forces against Kyiv.
- Strikes against eastbound lethal-aid convoys from eastern Europe.
- Forward deployment of logistics and communications into Ukraine from border regions.