North (assessed Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) Main Effort).
- The anticipated major offensive did not occur over the weekend, with limited territorial changes across the AO.
- A limited counter-offensive was conducted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) into Moshchun in the north of Kyiv, east of Hostomel (Antonov) Airport.
- Hostomel and Buch are currently contested, In-Direct Fire (IDF) and strikes against military and civilian targets are ongoing.
- There was no reported progress further south-west of Kyiv for the RFAF, and the encirclement is not yet complete.
- To the east of the Dnieper, The Ukrainian General Staff reported that RFAF north-east of Kyiv “moved to the defence” over the last 24 hours and are reportedly focused on resupply and reconnaissance.
- Chernihiv remains approximately 75% encircled and under bombardment, but no attempted break-in was conducted over the weekend.
- Sumy remains besieged and receiving IDF against civilian, military, and infrastructure targets.
- RFAF shelled Okhtyrka and disabled a power substation, and reports indicate that there is no longer heating available in the town.
- Kharkiv and Chuhuiv remain under IDF with multiple reports of large explosions in both towns. Journalist and US national Brent Renaud was killed by IDF in Kharkiv on 13 Mar 22.
- The eastern axis into Kyiv did not gain any ground, with RFAF forces likely consolidating and conducting resupply In the Vicinity Of (IVO) Bohdanivka, north-east of Skybyn.
- On 13 Mar 22 RFAF launched another reportedly unsuccessful attack at Izium and have fallen back to resume bombardment of the town.
- In Luhansk province, there were some possible territorial gains for the RFAF, with shelling of Rubizhne and Sievierodonetsk reported and the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) claiming that the southern suburbs of Sievierodonetsk had been captured.
- In Donetsk Oblast, north of Mariupol, RFAF reportedly captured Staromlynivka, Yevhenivka, Pavlivka, and Yegorivka on 13 Mar 22, with the Russian MoD claiming advances of 14km against the UAF.
- Russian forces continued sporadic assaults on Mariupol with no discernible success. The assessed major attack did not occur.
- Once again, besieging RFAF units did not allow humanitarian aid convoys into the city. The Ukrainian government reports 2187 civilians have been killed in Mariupol as of 13 Mar 22.
- On the southern axis, there were no RFAF ground attacks against Mykolayiv or Zaporizhia, and only sporadic IDF.
- Russian occupying forces face increased public disorder in some southern towns including Melitopol and Berdyansk, but the largest protests were seen in Kherson. Unconfirmed reports from Ukrainian press state that the mayor of Kherson, Igor Kolikhayev, rejected attempts by Russian forces to hold a referendum in the town to declare it the ‘Kherson Peoples’ Republic’.
- There were no reported advances of RFAF north along the west bank of the Dnieper, and it is likely the Russian forward line remains IVO Dudchany.
On 13 Mar 22 a Russian ballistic missile (Point of Origin and Type unknown) struck a Ukrainian military training base in Yavoriv (Yavoriv Centre for Peace and Security), approximately 20km from the Polish border in western Ukraine. The attack occurred the day after the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov announced that supply lines of lethal aid would be targeted. The attack reportedly killed 35 and injured a further 134. There is no reporting to indicate the presence of foreign instructors being killed or injured, but prior to the strike Russia announced it as a location of mercenaries and western made equipment indicating Russian preparedness for foreign casualties.
Belarussian troops remain deployed on the border with Ukraine but have not committed to the fight at this time. President Lukashenko stated the deployments were defensive and units would rotate through the locations at readiness. It is likely that Russia is seeking to pressure Belarus to commit forces on the northern axis to assist with the seizure of Kyiv.
If Ukrainian reporting proves correct then there is a realistic possibility that Russia will deploy Syrian pro-regime forces to Ukraine within the next 7–14 days although they are unlikely to have a significant impact on the conflict. Reporting also indicates Russia is reducing force numbers in existing peacekeeping operations (such as Nagorno-Karabakh and Ossetia) to reinforce units operating in Ukraine.
According to the Financial Times, Russia asked China for military equipment to support the invasion of Ukraine. The Chinese Embassy in Washington DC denied any knowledge of the request.
A major internet outage reportedly occurred in Vinnytsia on 13 Mar, and the telecom company blamed a cyber-attack. It is a realistic possibility further disruption of communications infrastructure will occur in western Ukrainian towns and cities in the short term and is a possible precursor to strikes.
It is likely that Russia is going to continue to consolidate gains and redeploy forces to support further offensive activity, however the duration of the operational pause is unknown. So far there has been a three day pause in offensive operations against Kyiv, which as well as consolidation has enabled reconnaissance activity in preparation for an attack.
It is highly likely that the RFAF will need to concentrate greater forces on the eastern axis if they wish to successfully break into and seize Mariupol, and this is unlikely to occur in the short term. RFAF are unlikely to have the forces available to maintain encirclement of either Mykolayiv or Zaporizhia whilst committed around Mariupol.
The reported attempt to hold a referendum for a ‘Kherson Peoples’ Republic’ may be indicative of the manner in which Russia intends to proceed in the longer-term. Rather than conventional occupation, the deconstruction of Ukraine into more manageable (and potentially loyal/subservient) ‘Peoples’ Republics’ may be the preferred method controlling Ukraine post-conflict.
Folding existing peacekeeping operations is likely attempt to avoid greater mobilisation and use of Russian conscripts and to keep the domestic-audience happier.
Targeting of lethal aid and foreign volunteer units/reserves in western Ukraine is highly likely to continue although forewarning is unlikely in the future. Targeting of utilities is also likely to continue in an effort to force defenders to surrender this may indicate that indicates that Russia is unlikely to seek to occupy Ukraine post-conflict.
The willingness to strike so close to the Polish border is likely dependent on the availability of Precision Guided Munitions (PGM). Targets further east and away from border regions are more likely to be struck from the air with conventional ‘dumb’ munitions unless they are considered to be a High Value Target (HVT). NATO has stated it will respond ‘appropriately’ to any Russian actions which directly impact a NATO country or member-nation citizen. This is unlikely to dissuade Russia from targeting western Ukraine.
The low level of cyber activity since the beginning of the invasion has been unusual, and it is likely that further attempts will be made against communications and information infrastructure to disrupt information operations and tactical coordination of resistance forces. Given the carrying levels of cyber-security across various privately-owned infrastructure, there may not be an evident pattern that emerges – just the exploitation of vulnerabilities as they are identified.
It is a realistic possibility that offensive activity in north-west Kyiv will resume in the next 48–72hrs. Supporting advances from the east are also likely to resume at the same time to split UAF reconnaissance assets and to prevent the defenders from converging against a single axis. Shelling in Mykolaiv is likely to resume, as well as probing attacks onto the outskirts to identify defensive locations. It is a realistic possibility that slow and incremental gains will be made to isolate Zaporizhia from the east whilst the advance along the west bank of the Dnieper from the south resumes. Ukrainian Volunteer Forces and Special Forces are likely to conduct raids and ambushes in northeast Ukraine against RFAF supply lines in order to reduce logistic supply and force RFAF units pushing on Kyiv to re-orientate to provide rear-area security. It is likely that Ukrainian training units and volunteer forces in western Ukraine will disperse and conceal themselves in order to frustrate Russian targeting efforts. Use of MANPADs to disable RFAF Unmanned Aerial Systems is likely to be a priority for UAF in order to mitigate risk of observation and targeting.