KYIV — There is mounting evidence that Ukraine is succeeding in inflicting significant casualties on Russian forces as they attempt to penetrate deeper into the country — and that the swift strike Russia hoped to carry out on the capital, Kiev, has been slowed by intense and popular resistance.
Russia has failed to make any significant progress over the past two days. The main Russian force pushing from Belarus towards Kiev does not appear to have come any closer to the city since it came within about 20 miles, although smaller forward groups fought gun battles with Ukrainian forces inside the capital since at least Friday.
The Ukrainian military says Russian troops are struggling to resupply themselves with fuel and logistics. Verified images and videos of destroyed Russian military vehicles and tanks are circulating online.
An example of the effectiveness of the Ukrainian resistance came on Sunday when Russia appeared to stage a half-hearted attempt to destroy the resistance in Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv.
Russian special forces units in light armored vehicles tried to enter Kharkiv after indiscriminately bombarding the city with artillery, but they were quickly destroyed by Ukrainian troops and territorial defense volunteers, according to reports. videos uploaded.
Kharkiv Mayor Oleg Sinegubov delivered a triumphant message late on Sunday, saying “the control of Kharkiv is entirely ours” and that Ukrainian forces had managed “to completely cleanse the city of the enemy”.
Sinegubov said dozens of Russian soldiers surrendered without a fight, sometimes in whole groups of five to 10 men, some abandoning their equipment.
A number of military analysts – including those who correctly predicted the invasion – believed that Russia had hoped for a lightning “shock and awe” advance to the outskirts of Kiev in the early days that would lead to the government’s capitulation. of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy without Russia needing to actually take over the city. Instead, resistance is growing, officials said.
“It is clear that they hoped to secure the quick surrender of Zelenskyy without inflicting heavy losses on the Ukrainian army. [and] civilians. It failed, but their execution still seems quite restricted,” said Rob Lee, a War Department analyst at Kings College London, wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Lee said the strategy had now failed and Russia would have to move to a Plan B, which he feared would mean “more strength”.
Time is working against Russia. Ukrainian popular resistance is gaining confidence, and Russia’s piecemeal strategy has so far given cities more time to build defenses, set up barricades and distribute thousands of weapons.
In Berdyansk, the only major city that Russia has taken full control of, videos posted on social media on Monday showed a crowd of residents angrily chanting a slogan insulting President Vladimir Putin against Russian troops guarding a government building on the main square.
At the same time, the international response is also intensifying, with more sanctions and measures aimed at crippling the Russian economy, while European countries are sending more and more weapons to strengthen Ukraine’s defence, the European Union also announcing that for the first time it would provide Ukrainian officials with military support.
So far, Russia has held back its main army and used its air and artillery power against military targets, avoiding heavy and widespread shelling of civilian areas. Analysts including Lee said Russia initially appeared to have sought to inflict limited casualties on Ukrainian civilians and military, likely out of fear of a backlash in Russia and making it more difficult to achieve rapid political change in Ukraine, as well as a stronger international community. reaction.
US officials and independent analysts now fear that if Russia’s bid to subdue Ukraine quickly fails, it could turn to using more brute force to do so. This could mean unleashing indiscriminate artillery and airstrikes to destroy the Ukrainian military and terrorize civilians, as well as besieging cities.
This already appears to be happening in Kharkiv, where Russia has for the past two days fired heavy artillery, including “Grad” multiple rocket launchers into the city, causing significant damage to civilian buildings.
“I think today we have seen a shift in Russian targeting towards critical civilian infrastructure, greater use of MLRS and artillery in suburban areas. and affects civilians is beginning to materialize.”, NAC analyst Michael Kofman, who also predicted the invasion as likely, tweeted late Saturday.
US officials warn, however, that Russia still has major combat power to deploy, with about half of its forces massed near Ukraine still uncommitted. A massive 3-mile-long column of hundreds of vehicles has formed in northern Ukraine after crossing Belarus and appears to be heading towards Kiev.