North (assessed Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) Main Effort).
- RFAF conducted limited attacks against Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) north-west of Kyiv, continuing to bombard Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin suburbs. This included an unsuccessful RFAF attempt to establish a pontoon bridge over the Irpin River.
- No offensive RFAF operations were observed north-east of Kyiv, as reporting suggests that RFAF continue to prioritise logistical reinforcement ahead of future offensive operations.
- There was no reported RFAF progress south-west of Kyiv.
- As a result of this uptick in strike activity, Ukrainian officials have announced a 35 hour curfew in the city. This comes into effect on 15 Mar at 2000hrs (local), until 17 Mar at 0800hrs (local).
- There have been no significant changes in Sumy, which continues to receive In-Direct Fire (IDF) against civilian, military, and infrastructure targets. Recent bombardment in the locality also included Okhtyrka and Nyzy.
- RFAF did not gain any ground on Kyiv’s eastern axis and are likely also pausing for consolidation, recouperation and logistic re-supply.
- 150 RFAF personnel are reported to have been killed during offensive operations against Mariupol. Social media reporting suggests this included one senior RFAF military commander.
- Ukrainian officials will make a new attempt to deliver humanitarian supplies to Mariupol, following reports that an aid convoy was blocked from reaching the city by the RFAF.
- In Luhansk province, RFAF units continue to face resistance from UAF in the vicinity of Sievierodonetsk.
- In Donetsk province, RFAF officials claim that they have seized control of Panteliymonivka and reaching Verkhnotoretske and Novoselivka Druh. This latest activity coincides with the Donetsk People’s Republic leaders publishing a list of 90 settlements which they claim to be under their control.
- RFAF also targeted civilian and industrial locations in Avdiivka, where multiple casualties were reported. RFAF also targeted Dnipro airport, resulting in damage to the runway and terminal building.
- RFAF officials claim to have taken full control of Kherson region, whilst UAF officials report that RFAF seeks to build military foundations in the surrounding locality. This follows reports in the last 24hrs that RFAF fired warning shots at local citizens, who continue to protest Russian occupation. Public disorder also continues to be observed in other cities in the region.
- RFAF advances towards Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih have paused. Reporting indicates, as observed on other axes, that RFAF focus on resupply and combat unit reinforcement.
- In the meantime, IDF attacks continue to be observed in Mykolaiv – resulting in an estimated 80 civilian casualties.
- No significant territorial changes were reported in Zaporizhia province. Social media reports indicate that RFAF troops have destroyed ammunition in the grounds of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. No changes to radiation levels have been recorded at this time.
- First groups of IDPs arrived in Zaporizhia from Mariupol, with additional reporting of more evacuations planned for the next 24hrs (NFDK).
Viktor Zolotov, Chief of RFAF’s National Guard, is reported to have acknowledged that the Russian offensive is “not going to plan”. Zolotov attributed this lack of progress on the presence of far-right elements within the Ukrainian population. These comments correspond with sentiment from senior US officials, who continue to state that the RFAF advance has stalled.
No significant progress was reported following the fourth round of talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials. Talks are expected to resume on 15/16 Mar 22.
Social Media reporting has suggested that Chechen Leader Ramzan Kadyrov has travelled to Ukraine, with reference to Hostomel specifically.
According to UK MoD, Russia is reportedly considering staging a referendum in Kherson to legitimise its control of the region, like previous action undertaken in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea. UK officials have stated that any “faux election” will be seen as illegitimate, which is likely to be reciprocated by other NATO partners.
The United Nations (UN) announced it would allocate an additional $40 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, stated that the money will assist in the procurement and delivery of food, water and other critical supplies to high threat areas. The World Food Programme also plans to scale-up its operations in the short-term, to deliver support to those Ukrainian citizens situated in high-risk locations – notably Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol.
The International Monetary Fund has forecasted that Ukraine’s economic output will contract by at least 10% in 2022. The economic impact is expected to be “upfront and severe”, driven by mass migration, and long-term damage to Ukrainian critical national infrastructure. The IMF’s report caveated that its current forecast is based on a “prompt resolution” to the conflict, which is subject to “massive uncertainty”.
The current operational pause continues to allow the RFAF to consolidate gains and focus on positioning forces to support future offensive operations. This is a possibility in Mariupol, where its existing forces are likely to be insufficient to take control of the city. Any observed reduction of RFAF elements dedicated to the isolation of Mariupol is a possible indicator of increased support to the operational axis towards Zaporizhia. Zaporizhia is key terrain and major crossing point over the River Dnieper, vital for future operations into Odessa – a key strategic target.
Viktor Zolotov’s comments feed directly into the perpetuation of Russian rhetoric and its interpretation of the historical backdrop to the invasion, despite contradicting the majority of official Russian sources.
Chechen units have reportedly been heavily involved in fighting both around Mariupol and north-west Kyiv. It is a realistic possibility that Kadyrov is visiting his deployed units in order to improve morale after they reportedly suffered losses attacking Kyiv and hunting High Value Targets (HVT).
RFAF continues to indiscriminately target civilian population areas whilst carrying out limited offensive activity against strategic locations – notably the Dnipro Airport. This tactic is unlikely to change in the medium term, as it enables the RFAF to consolidate gains, whilst maintaining pressure on the UAF.
Whilst Russian officials announce that it has full control of Kherson, public disorder is likely to persist across the city. Further reports of RFAF heavy-handedness could result in an escalation, which would delegitimize any claims to local population support.
The transport and delivery of humanitarian aid convoys remains a fundamental challenge. Whilst access out of Mariupol is reported to be increasing, there are no indicators which suggest that RFAF will allow aid convoys to freely transit into priority locations. Such challenges will also apply to humanitarian corridors, plus the movement of IDPs to other areas may hinder UAF withdrawals under pressure and prevent logistical support from moving to front-line locations.
It remains a realistic possibility that offensive activity in north-west Kyiv will resume in the next 48–72hrs – maintenance of momentum is vital to offensive actions and despite the logistic difficulty the RFAF are facing they are likely to seek to regain the initiative in the short term. RFAF will continue to bombard Kyiv, Mariupol, and other urban centres in the short term, to maintain pressure on the Ukrainian government and fix the UAF. As previously reported, shelling in Mykolaiv is also likely to resume, potentially supported by RFAF elements operating in the vicinity of Kryvyi Rih. It remains likely that this activity will be in the form of probing attacks onto the outskirts to identify defensive locations. UAF elements will continue to look to disrupt RFAF advances along the main axes of advance towards Kyiv, targeting RFAF supply lines and forcing tactical withdrawals.