North (assessed Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) Main Effort).
- RFAF continue to defend its positions on the west and east of Kyiv city.
- Artillery bombardment continues to be observed across Bucha, and Irpin. Clashes also reported in the vicinity of Makariv, which sits along the reported Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) avenue of approach.
- RFAF special forces (SOF) reported to have attempted several small-scale raids in the south-west of Chernihiv, probing UAF defences. RFAF also reported to be establishing a defensive line along the Snow River, following the destruction of several bridges in the region.
- RFAF also continues its bombardment of Chernihiv city.
Video purported to show RFAF transporting military hardware towards Belarus. Source: @TadeuzGiczan
- No offensive RFAF operations observed in Kharkiv in the past 24-hours. However, the city remains under heavy bombardment. Reporting also suggests that RFAF will look to reinforce this effort, to attempt to link-up with its Luhansk units.
- Bombardment activity also noted in Brovary, where RFAF are reported to be reinforcing its defensive positions. RFAF forces also remain encircled in Bashyrivka and Kalytyanske
- Several RFAF elements reported to have been withdrawn from the Sumy region, to redeploy to the East axis. This is not corroborated.
- Sumy city remains under heavy air and artillery bombardment.
- Nizhyn, situated on the P67 route, has imposed a curfew between 2200hrs on 29 Mar 22, to 0500hrs on 31 Mar 22.
- In Luhansk region, RFAF continues to be focussed on Popasna and Rubizhne. Air and artillery bombardment was reported, but no offensive activity was observed.
- Power blackout reported in Sievierodonetsk, where RFAF speculated to be targeting civilian power engineering teams.
- Ukrainian officials reported heavy clashes with RFAF across the Donetsk region.
- RFAF air and artillery strikes reported in Avdiivka, Maryinka, and Novomykhailivka.
- UAF continue to hold Mariupol despite intense attacks from RFAF. No notable changes to areas of control reported.
- No changes reported in Zaporizhia or Kherson regions – including no updates on Kryvyi Rih situation.
- RFAF military convoys observed moving north towards Mykolaiv.
- Strike on Mykolaiv regional administration building is heavily reported on mainstream media – reportedly 12 killed.
Image depicting the damage to the regional administration building in Mykolaiv, following the missile strike on 29 Mar 22. Source: @ChristopherJM
The news cycle, and social media discourse, has been dominated by Russia’s announcement that it intends to “drastically reduce” activity in both Kyiv and Chernihiv regions. Russian officials claimed that this decision was taken to build “mutual trust” and create the foundations for a long-term peace deal. US officials following the announcement stated that there was evidence of RFAF units moving from the North axis, indicating a “major strategy” shift. However, this was subsequently downplayed in follow-up statements, stating that it believed that it will be a tactical redeployment, not a withdrawal and that the RFAF still posed a threat to both regions.
Regardless of Russia’s next steps, yesterday’s announcement was a clear indicator that its military made a strategic miscalculation on Kyiv and the level of UAF resistance. The timing of the announcement appears to have been deliberate, utilising the peace talks to minimise reputational damage and present a veneer that it is actively seeking a negotiated peace settlement. Online sentiment that this amounts to a withdrawal are highly likely to be inaccurate, with evidence that Russia has switched its focus onto the Donbass region, whilst concurrently establishing a ground corridor linking up with Crimea. This may be another strategic pause, until Russia feels confident that it can renew offensive operations with a greater chance of success. As reporting has already suggested in the past 24-hours, RFAF will continue to bombard both UAF and civilian locations and this activity is unlikely to abate in the medium term, amplifying the reality that Russia will be judged on its actions, not its words alone. With deception still a possibility it is possible that Russia will rejuvenate activities in vicinity of Kyiv if the operational environment begins to favour them.
There are no indicators to suggest that the RFAF is going to reduce its activity across Kyiv and Chernihiv regions in the next 72-hours. RFAF ground forces will highly likely seek to concentrate on reinforcing its existing defensive positions, using air and artillery bombardment to fix UAF locations and slow its rate of advance to the east and west of Kyiv. RFAF tactical withdrawals are likely to continue, as it recalibrates its focus to other axes – notably the Donbass region. However, as has been illustrated since the beginning of the invasion, this movement will take time and it is unlikely that RFAF units which were deployed to the North axis will be ready to deploy in the next 72-hours. Other RFAF activity is likely to remain extant, with the fall of Mariupol still representing the biggest threat to UAF in the immediate term.