Russian progress has been slow but steady. Recently two clear priorities have emerged, Kyiv and Mariupol. The majority of OSINT reporting received thus far demonstrates a western pro-Ukraine bias. This bias has repercussions for the onlooker and can, on occasion, produce an overly favourably assessment of Ukrainian defence. That said, this week has seen a trend in reporting which suggests Ukrainian defence forces are not just holding up RFAF in Kyiv but posturing for a successful removal of their forces from north-eastern Kyiv. There are in fact murmurings the Russia may give up on Kyiv to focus on other strategic goals such as Mariupol. The situation however is far more complex, from which multiple courses of action may occur.
Please read the Prevail Daily OSINT summary to understand the regular changes in the Front Line of Enemy Troops (FLET). As it stands RFAF have continued a phase of heavy bombardment to soften targets whilst deepening their positions where needed. The logistics supply to their forward elements has been heavily targeted by Ukrainian defenders but the current effect of this is not assessed to be decisive. Far more important is Ukrainian ability to hold positions on the FLET for a protracted period. In Kyiv an enduring siege is expected, the level of attrition will be high and to tolerate this RFAF are currently preparing their positions and supplies. In Mariupol RFAF have a favourable situation, they have flanked their opposition (including on the maritime flank) and have force ratios that mean a siege is unlikely to endure as long as Kyiv, thus preparations required are less impactful on overarching operational plans.
In the wake of the Russian MoD announcement on
The current military situation to the east of Kyiv appears to have reached a stalemate at this time. There has been no significant RFAF progress towards taking Skybyn or Brovary, despite limited offensive activity over the last 48hrs. RFAF have been forced to withdraw approximately 15-20km from their former front line near Skybyn and are now over 30km east of
On 23 Mar 22 Russian forces in the Irpin-Bucha-Hostomel area were
Despite limited access to confirmatory reporting, it is believed that between 3 and 5 RFAF Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) are based around Hostomel airport – which appears to be the central logistics and organisational node for the push into Kyiv. For the desired 3:1 ratio for a deliberate attack (raising to 5:1 for defenders in urban areas in prepared positions), the UAF would require between 9 and 25 BTGs (or 1-3 Corps) to recapture the area and clear it of RFAF defenders. Should the Ukrainians wish to merely encircle and isolate the RFAF, it would likely require them to link up forces, likely roughly along the M07 Highway between Irpin and Borodyanka, a distance of approximately 22km. This would then create an approximately 400km
Whilst the RFAF appear to have stalled around Kyiv they are taking on a defensive footing – laying minefields and constructing defensive
Mariupol remains under siege, and Russian forces are conducting their assault into the city with slow but steady progress and fighting is now ongoing in the city centre and the Azovstal Iron and Steel works.
The Azov Battalion was formed in 2014 as a paramilitary organisation to fight rebels in the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and was one of the first units to capture Mariupol in Jun 14. The Battalion was absorbed into the official Ukrainian Armed Forces in Nov 14 and became a ‘Special Purpose Regiment’ of approximately 900 personnel. The unit undoubtedly had Nazi/far-right connections and was famed for fighting with Nazi symbology painted onto helmets and equipment. In Mar 15 the US withdrew an offer to train the Regiment after its association with
On 11 Mar 22, Russian forces declared that after 10 days of operations in the area, they had completed the encirclement of Mariupol and
If RFAF elements northwest of Kyiv were to become surrounded, then Russia would seek to increase the frequency of air-strikes against UAF forces, as they establish limited control of the airspace. The isolation of RFAF elements to the northwest of Kyiv may also cause the Kremlin to put further pressure on Belarus to commit troops to the war further west in Ukraine to draw the counter-attacking forces away from the potential encirclement – possibly south from Stolin towards Sarny and Rivne along the P05 highway.
As it stands Russia is unlikely to be able to complete the encirclement of the Kyiv with current forces, however, they may have stalled but are a long way from being defeated comprehensively. In spite of the RFAF being well equipped with amphibious troop transports (BTRs, BMPs and MTLBs) these are unlikely to be able to successfully cross flooded areas due to mud and obstacles that likely litter the flooded area. Additionally, there is vulnerability associated with equipping snorkels for fording but identifying such equipment would act as a combat indicator for UAF. It is highly unlikely that RFAF will seek to bring engineers or bridging equipment to seek alternative crossing means whilst the threat of UAF indirect fires exists. It should also be noted that the flooding is likely to have some negative impact on UAF counterattacks intended to isolate the RFAF by preventing their advance north along the west bank of the Dnieper and west to cut RFAF Ground Lines of Communication (GLoC).
It is almost certain that any neo-Nazi/far-right items captured in Mariupol will be propagandised by the Russians in order to legitimise their actions to both domestic and international audiences. It is a realistic possibility that ‘proxy-media’ or pro-Russian accounts will significantly amplify any evidence found in an attempt to gain the front-foot on Information Operations – something Russia has performed surprisingly poorly at thus far.
Russia is unlikely to allow more humanitarian aid into Mariupol, nor to allow evacuation of civilians as this would almost certainly prolong the siege. Russia is highly likely to be using old-fashioned siege tactics in order to force the capitulation of defenders and secure the city without significant damage to the port – which is infrastructure of economic and military significance to both sides of the conflict. Russia is currently fighting street-to-street and is reportedly entering the city centre (ASAT 25 Mar 22), with Russian forces from the east reaching the Azovstal Iron and Steel works, and forces from the west reaching the