- The majority of the Ukrainian army is stationed in eastern Ukraine, where it has been engaged in a nearly eight-year struggle with Moscow-backed separatists.
- Ukrainian military have forced the Russians back in certain areas, notably Makariv, which is located near a critical route west of Kyiv.
The Russian military said Friday that the “first stage of the operation” had been completed in major part, letting Russian forces to focus on their “primary goal — the liberation of Donbas.”
Many analysts believe the tactical adjustment reflects President Vladimir Putin’s recognition that his plan for a blitz in Ukraine has failed, forcing him to focus his goals and modify tactics in the midst of a disastrous war that has turned Russia into a pariah and wrecked its economy.
With its hopes for a rapid victory dashed by robust Ukrainian opposition, Russia has shifted its focus to grinding down Ukraine’s troops in the east in the hope of forcing Kyiv to give part of the country’s territory and possibly end the war.
The majority of the Ukrainian army is stationed in eastern Ukraine, where it has been engaged in a nearly eight-year struggle with Moscow-backed separatists.
If Russia is successful in encircling and killing Ukrainian forces in the country’s industrial heartland known as Donbas, it may try to dictate its conditions to Kyiv and, possibly, split the country in two.
Russian armies ringed and besieged Mariupol for weeks, pounding it with rockets and artillery in a massacre that killed thousands of civilians.
The fall of Mariupol would free up Russian soldiers, allowing them to engage in a possible pincer manoeuvre with another group of troops moving from Kharkiv in the northeast to try to encircle the Ukrainian military in the east.
“Russian forces appear to be concentrating their effort to attempt the encirclement of Ukrainian forces squarely facing the separatist territories in the country’s east, advancing from the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south,” the British Ministry of Defense warned on Sunday.
Officials in the United States and the United Kingdom have also remarked that Moscow has shifted its focus to battling Ukrainian forces in the east while digging in around Kyiv and other major cities and bombarding them with rockets and artillery.
However, Russian attempts to quickly conquer Kyiv, the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and other major cities in the northeast have been foiled by well-organized Ukrainian defences and logistical problems, causing the Russian operation to stall.
Russian soldiers have hammered the outskirts of Kyiv with artillery and air raids from afar while halting their ground offensive, tactics they have also used in attacks on Kharkiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy in the northeast.
Ukrainian military have forced the Russians back in certain areas, notably Makariv, which is located near a critical route west of Kyiv.
After the combat there a few days ago, sources saw the carcass of a Russian rocket launcher, a burned Russian truck, the body of a Russian soldier, and a wrecked Ukrainian tank.
The reporters spotted positions abandoned by Ukrainian soldiers who retreated further west in the nearby settlement of Yasnohorodka, but no trace of Russian troops.
According to Mykola Sunhurovskyi, a military analyst at Kyiv’s Razumkov Center think tank, Russia has abandoned attempts to invade Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities for the time being and is instead laying siege to them in order to weaken Ukraine and buy time.
“Russia has altered tactics… in order to rearrange its forces and prepare for the next active stage of the battle,” Sunhurovskyi explained.
While the Russian military has shifted its focus to the east, it has continued to deploy its stockpile of air- and sea-launched cruise missiles to methodically target fuel depots, military arsenals, and arms plants across the country.
A senior US defence source also mentioned Russia’s recent focus on Donbas.
According to the official, Putin may now hope to seize complete control of the east while keeping other Ukrainian forces occupied with the defence of Kyiv and other areas, and then press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to formally surrender control of Donbas and recognise Russia’s control of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.