No large-scale occupation seems possible, as the failure to take Kyiv may become a permanent condition for Russian forces. Battle damage continues even as peripheral events magnify the suffering as well as the cruelty of long-range bombardment. Russia’s first air launch of a hypersonic missile was reported. The shifting of S-300 SAMs from NATO countries marks a major change to defend major cities even as the Russian air force still tends to launch their weapons from over the border.
- We now assess that the initial Russian campaign to seize Ukraine’s capital and major cities and force regime change has failed;
- Russian forces continue efforts to restore momentum to this culminated campaign, but those efforts will likely also fail;
- Russian troops will continue trying to advance to within effective artillery range of the center of Kyiv, but prospects for their success are unclear;
- The war will likely descend into a phase of bloody stalemate that could last for weeks or months;
- Russia will expand efforts to bombard Ukrainian civilians in order to break Ukrainians’ will to continue fighting (at which the Russians will likely fail);
- The most dangerous current Russian advance is from Kherson north toward Kryvyi Rih in an effort to isolate Zaporizhiya and Dnipro from the west. Russian forces are unlikely to be able to surround or take Kryvyi Rih in the coming days, and may not be able to do so at all without massing much larger forces for the effort than they now have available on that axis;
- The Russians appear to have abandoned plans to attack Odesa at least in the near term.
Ukrainian forces have defeated the initial Russian campaign of this war. That campaign aimed to conduct airborne and mechanized operations to seize Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, and other major Ukrainian cities to force a change of government in Ukraine. That campaign has culminated. Russian forces continue to make limited advances in some parts of the theater but are very unlikely to be able to seize their objectives in this way. The doctrinally sound Russian response to this situation would be to end this campaign, accept a possibly lengthy operational pause, develop the plan for a new campaign, build up resources for that new campaign, and launch it when the resources and other conditions are ready. The Russian military has not yet adopted this approach. It is instead continuing to feed small collections of reinforcements into an ongoing effort to keep the current campaign alive. We assess that that effort will fail.
The ultimate fall of Mariupol is increasingly unlikely to free up enough Russian combat power to change the outcome of the initial campaign dramatically. Russian forces concentrated considerable combat power around Mariupol drawn from the 8th Combined Arms Army to the east and from the group of Russian forces in Crimea to the west. Had the Russians taken Mariupol quickly or with relatively few losses they would likely have been able to move enough combat power west toward Zaporizhiya and Dnipro to threaten those cities. The protracted siege of Mariupol is seriously weakening Russian forces on that axis, however. The confirmed death of the commander of the Russian 150th Motorized Rifle Division likely indicates the scale of the damage Ukrainian defenders are inflicting on those formations. The block-by-block fighting in Mariupol itself is costing the Russian military time, initiative, and combat power. If and when Mariupol ultimately falls the Russian forces now besieging it may not be strong enough to change the course of the campaign dramatically by attacking to the west.
Russian forces in the south appear to be focusing on a drive toward Kryvyi Rih, presumably to isolate and then take Zaporizhiya and Dnipro from the west but are unlikely to secure any of those cities in the coming weeks if at all. Kryvyi Rih is a city of more than 600,000 and heavily fortified according to the head of its military administration. Zaporizhiya and Dnipro are also large. The Russian military has been struggling to take Mariupol, smaller than any of them, since the start of the war with more combat power than it is currently pushing toward Kryvyi Rih. The Russian advance on that axis is thus likely to bog down as all other Russian advances on major cities have done.
The Russian military continues to commit small groups of reinforcements to localized fighting rather than concentrating them to launch new large-scale operations. Russia continues to commit units drawn from its naval infantry from all fleets, likely because those units are relatively more combat-ready than rank-and-file Russian regiments and brigades. The naval infantry belonging to the Black Sea Fleet is likely the largest single pool of ready reserve forces the Russian military has not yet committed. Much of that naval infantry has likely been embarked on amphibious landing ships off the Odesa coast since early in the war, presumably ready to land near Odesa as soon as Russian forces from Crimea secured a reliable ground line of communication (GLOC) from Crimea to Odesa. The likelihood that Russian forces from Crimea will establish such a GLOC in the near future is becoming remote, however, and the Russian military has apparently begun using elements of the Black Sea Fleet naval infantry to reinforce efforts to take Mariupol.
US officials confirmed to CNN that Russia launched hypersonic missiles against Ukraine last week, the first known use of such missiles in combat. The US was able to track the launches in real time, the sources said.
The launches were likely intended to test the weapons and send a message to the West about Russian capabilities, multiple sources told CNN.
Russia's Ministry of Defence said Saturday that it had launched hypersonic Kinzhal missiles against a military ammunitions warehouse in western Ukraine on Friday, destroying the structure in the Ukrainian village of Delyatin. CNN is unable to independently verify this claim.
Traveling at Mach 5 speed or faster, hypersonic weapons are difficult to detect, posing a challenge to missile defense systems. Hypersonic missiles can travel at a far lower trajectory than high-arcing ballistic missiles, which can be easily detectable. Hypersonics can also maneuver and evade missile defense systems.
Negotiations over a cease-fire are continuing, and a long, heated battle over Kyiv is not inevitable. Despite superior numbers and firepower, Russia has not achieved a breakthrough. A Western official, in a briefing with reporters this past week, said the Russians had taken heavy casualties, been unable to establish any meaningful off-road presence, and — perhaps most surprising — failed to achieve dominance in the air.
But the first stages of the battle have already begun, with cruise missile bombardments, troop movements to encircle the city and a fight to gain air superiority. Savage, street-by-street gunfights akin to guerrilla warfare have broken out northwestern suburbs like Irpin, an important gateway into the city. It could be the beginning of a long, drawn-out siege using hunger and street fighting to advance toward the city center.
WASHINGTON — When President Biden declared to reporters on Wednesday, almost off the cuff, that President Vladimir V. Putin was a “war criminal,” he was speaking from the heart, his aides said, reacting to the wrenching images of civilians — including children — being dragged, dead or disfigured, from ruins of buildings shelled by Russian forces.
But he was also personalizing the conflict, in a way past presidents have avoided at moments of crisis with the United States’ leading nuclear-armed adversary. And his remark underscored how personal condemnation has become policy, as Mr. Biden and his top aides frame Mr. Putin as a pariah, an indiscriminate killer who should be standing trial at The Hague.
Mr. Biden amplified his attacks on Thursday, calling Mr. Putin “a murderous dictator, a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine.” His secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, chimed in, saying: “Personally, I agree. Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime.”