Russian forces may only be able to sustain full fighting capacity for another ‘ten to 14’ days, senior UK defence sources indicated last night, after which Putin’s men will struggle to hold the ground they have already captured from Ukrainian troops.
UK defence sources say that Kyiv has Moscow ‘on the run’ and the Russian army could be just two weeks from ‘culmination point’ – after which ‘the strength of Ukraine’s resistance should become greater than Russia’s attacking force.’ Advances across Ukraine have already stopped as Moscow’s manpower runs short.
President Volodymyr Zelensky echoed that optimism in an early-morning address to the Ukrainian people, saying his military continues to inflict ‘devastating losses on Russian troops.’
‘Soon the number of downed helicopters of Russia will reach hundreds of units. They have already lost 80 warplanes. Hundreds of tanks and thousands of other units of equipment. In 19 days, the Russian army has lost more in Ukraine than in two bloody and years-long wars in Chechnya,’ he added.
But, as Russia’s invasion falters, its methods become more brutal – with cities increasingly coming under indiscriminate rocket fire. Kyiv, the capital, suffered another round of bombing on Tuesday morning as apartment blocks were set on fire by early-hours strikes, though there was no immediate figure on casualties.
Ukraine’s military said four Russian helicopters, a jet, and a cruise missile were shot down by its forces which remained in control of all major cities – including the badly-hit southern port of Mariupol.
Putin’s stuttering invasion has forced even his close allies to admit, publicly, that things are not going to plan.
Russian National Guard chief Viktor Zolotov – once in charge of Putin’s personal security – admitted Tuesday that ‘not everything is going as fast as we would like’. But he still insisted Russia would achieve victory ‘step by step’.
The Kremlin also said it may still opt to take control of large cities in Ukraine, despite false claims the purpose of its ‘special military operation’ is to ‘liberate’ the country.
It comes as footage emerged of Russian troops launching more devastating strikes on the port city of Kharkiv, with explosions lighting up the night sky.
Firefighters extinguish a blaze in a residential tower block in Kyiv after it was struck by Russian missiles in the early hours, as Putin’s men continue with indiscriminate strikes on cities
Ukrainian firefighters battle to extinguish a blaze in a residential tower block hit by Russian missiles, as Kyiv came under fresh bombardment on Tuesday morning
As the tide of war has turned against Russia, Putin’s men increasingly resort to a scorched-earth policy of indiscriminate destruction targeting civilian areas (pictured, a destroyed apartment block in Kyiv today)
Kyiv was hit by several Russian airstrikes on Tuesday morning, as the Ukrainian military said it struck four helicopters, a jet and shot down a cruise missile targeting the capital
Smoke billows from an apartment building in Kyiv which was hit by Russian airstrikes in the early hours of Tuesday
An elderly woman is carried away from a burning apartment building in Kyiv after it was hit by Russian airstrikes
An elderly woman breaks down in tears after being saved from an apartment fire that was caused by a Russian airstrike
A woman weeps as she watches her apartment block go up in flames after it was struck by Russian missiles in Kyiv
Firefighters work in an apartment building damaged by shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, by Russian forces early Tuesday
Kyiv has been under Russian bombardment for several days, as Putin’s military follows a playbook it has established in other cities of terrorising the civilian population in an attempt to break their resistance
Rescuers work next to a residential building damaged by shelling, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine
As Russia’s invasion has stuttered and ground to a halt, it has become almost totally reliant on indiscriminate shelling in order to make territorial gains – which have been extremely limited in recent days
Firefighters extinguish fires in an apartment building after being hit by Russian shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine,
An elderly resident waits to be rescued by firefighters after the apartment building was hit by shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also said in a video released in the early hours of Tuesday morning that Ukraine’s ‘brave defenders continue to inflict devastating losses on Russian troops’
Encircling Kyiv and other significant population centres such as Kharkiv and Chernihiv would improve Russia’s negotiating position and provide a scenario that Putin could try to present as a victory.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: ‘The ministry of defence, while ensuring maximum safety of the peaceful population, does not rule out the possibility of placing under its full control major population centres.
‘Inevitably this could lead to a large number of casualties among civilians. US and European Union officials are pushing Russia towards storming major cities with a view to place responsibility for civilian deaths on our country.’
As attacks on the capital continued yesterday, Russian rockets claimed more innocent lives.
A local official said a town councillor for Bovary, east of Kyiv, was killed in fighting there. One person was also killed and six injured after the wreckage of an intercepted missile struck a residential street in Kyiv. The debris destroyed a bus and set an apartment building ablaze.
Residents were rescued by ladder from a burning apartment block in the Obolon district of Kyiv after it was destroyed by a Russian air strike that killed at least two people in the early hours of the morning.
‘They say that he is too severely burned, that I won’t recognise him,’ sobbed Lidiya Tikhovska, 83, staring at the spot where a paramedic said the remains of her son Vitaliy lay.
‘I wish Russia the same grief I feel now,’ she said, tears rolling down her cheeks as she clung to her grandson’s elbow for support.
As fighting and artillery fire raged in the suburbs, the Antonov aircraft factory six miles from Kyiv was also hit, sparking a large fire. Ukrainian authorities said two more people died and seven were injured after Russian forces struck the factory.
Russian airstrikes also hit residential buildings in the eastern city of Kharkiv and near the important southern city of Mykolaiv. Explosions also rang out overnight around the Russian-occupied Black Sea port of Kherson.
Russian forces may only be able to sustain full fighting capacity for another ‘ten to 14’ days, senior UK defence sources indicated last night. Pictured: A soldier walks in front of a destroyed Russian tank in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday
A view of burned tank is seen amid Russian-Ukrainian conflict in the city of Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on March 12
Firefighters work on a building destroyed by a Russian shell, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday
A woman (centre) is overcome with emotion as she and others stand outside a destroyed apartment block after it was shelled in Kyiv on March 14
It comes as footage emerged of Russian troops launching more devastating strikes on the port city of Kharkiv, with explosions lighting up the night sky
Tracers are seen in the night sky as Ukrainian servicemen fire on a Russian drone in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 14
Ukrainian firefighters hold a photograph, found in the rubble, as they work in a resident building after it was hit by artillery shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday
Rescuers work next to a building damaged by air strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in central Kharkiv, on March 14
Russian airstrikes also hit residential buildings in the eastern city of Kharkiv and near the important southern city of Mykolaiv. Pictured: A destroyed building in Kharkiv on Monday
A satellite image shows a colored infrared view of fires burning near Fontanna street, Eastern Mariupol, Ukraine, on Monday
A Ukrainian firefighter appears to be engulfed in flames as his coworkers help to move him away from the fire in Kharkiv. The fire fighters were working to extinguish a fire at a building destroyed by a Russian shell on Monday
Last night, US defence sources said there was ‘an increasing amount of long range fires [air strikes]’ targeting Kyiv and other major cities but these population centres were ‘holding out’.
A Pentagon spokesman added: ‘They are continuing the bombardment and increasing that, no doubt about that.’ UK defence sources expect the Ukrainians to target Russian surface-to-air missile stations, electronic warfare sites and command and control networks.
These military assets are situated on the outskirts of Kyiv and other cities and could be targeted using drones supplied by Turkey. Russia’s attacks yesterday proved costly. The Ukrainians claimed they shot down four warplanes, three helicopters and numerous drones, inflicting what they called ‘devastating blows’ on the invaders.
Kyiv also claimed yesterday that Russian troops had made no major advances over the previous 24 hours – an assessment shared by US officials.
Russian troop losses in less than three weeks of fighting are thought to be as high as 12,000, according to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, dozens of British volunteer fighters who travelled to Ukraine to join the International Legion narrowly avoided being killed in a Russian missile strike on a military base which left dozens dead.
Three British former paratroopers are understood to have been killed in the attack on the Yavoriv base, located just 11 miles from the Polish border.
The ex-soldiers, who were members of the Parachute Regiment, joined Ukraine’s foreign legion after Vladimir Putin’s troops invaded last month.
The volunteers, who are thought to be the first British victims of the war, were among 35 people killed in the strike. Dozens of other British volunteer fighters narrowly avoided being killed in the attack.
Russian spies are believed to have infiltrated a group of foreign fighters and provided information from the base. Intelligence chiefs are investigating whether a Russian spy claiming to be an international volunteer for Ukraine was feeding information to the Kremlin before the attack.
The sources believe that Russian spy agencies had ‘turned’ foreign fighters on the base and one recruit is suspected of sending coordinates and information to Russia before the attack, reported the Daily Mirror.
The barracks at the International Peace Keeping and Security Centre in Yavoriv burns after being hit by a Russian missile strike in the early hours of Sunday morning – killing 35 people and injuring 134 more
A man wounded in the air strike on the Yavoriv military base is assisted by medical staff outside Novoiavorivsk District Hospital on Sunday
Ukrainians carry their luggage after a residential building was damaged by Russian shelling in Obolon a neighborhood of Kyiv, on Monday
A source told the newspaper that a Ukrainian Army guard at the miliary base saw a man – believed to be carrying a laptop – running from the base before the strikes hit.
The former British Army soldiers believed to be killed in the strikes travelled to Ukraine after having served in the Parachute Regiment’s first and second battalions – known as 1 Para and 2 Para.
They are believed to have been living in an accommodation block at the Yavoriv garrison when the Russian rockets struck.
Hundreds of western volunteers were stationed in a building close to the barracks which were destroyed during the airstrike.
The camp was being used to train foreign fighters and to store weapons given to Ukraine by the UK and other allies. Last night, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) refused to comment on reports of British deaths.
Sources said they were urgently investigating the incident at Yavoriv and working with the Ukrainian authorities to establish further information.
Dozens of British volunteer fighters narrowly escaped death after Russia launched the air strike.
A source told the Sun: ‘A hundred yards difference you would be looking at hundreds of western casualties.
‘There were so many passports in there — British, Brazilian, Canadian, American, you name it.
‘It was like the Star Wars canteen. There were gun nuts, biker gangs, tough guys, American religious people there to do God’s work, war addicts.
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‘One British guy was boasting that he’d killed someone in a bar fight.
‘Another Brit said he was a Royal Marine who wasn’t at liberty to disclose his rank or his unit — that’s a red flag right there.
‘There’s no vetting, there’s no command and control, no chain of command. It’s a complete sh*t show.’
The attack on the Yavoriv base, which has previously been used by Nato to train Ukrainian soldiers, was one of the western-most targets struck by Russia during the invasion.
The trio who are feared dead were not part of the foreign legion fighting unit being trained at the base six miles from the border, sources told The Mirror.
It is not known which branch of the special forces they had served in.
Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia’s ministry of defence, said the base was struck by ‘long-range, high-precision’ weapons because it was hosting ‘foreign mercenaries and a large shipment of foreign weapons’.
He added: ‘The destruction of foreign mercenaries who arrived on the territory of Ukraine will continue.’
Moscow has moved all of the 150,000 troops it had assembled before the invasion into Ukraine, the US confirmed last night. But following heavy losses, at least 10 per cent of this force has been eliminated, according to officials.
Russia and Ukraine kept a fragile diplomatic path open with a new round of talks Monday, even as Moscow’s forces continued to pound away at Ukrainian cities.
The latest negotiations, held via video conference, were the fourth round involving higher-level officials from the two countries and the first in a week. The talks ended without a breakthrough after several hours, with an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying the negotiators took ‘a technical pause’ and planned to meet again Tuesday.
The two sides had expressed some optimism in the past few days. Mykhailo Podolyak, the aide to Zelenskyy, tweeted that the negotiators would discuss ‘peace, ceasefire, immediate withdrawal of troops & security guarantees.’
Previous discussions, held in person in Belarus, produced no lasting humanitarian routes or agreements to end the fighting.
In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing Monday that while the Biden administration supports Ukraine’s participation in the talks with Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin would have to show signs of de-escalating in order to demonstrate good faith.
‘And what we’re really looking for is evidence of that, and we’re not seeing any evidence at this point that President Putin is doing anything to stop the onslaught or de-escalate,’ she said.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounded the alarm once again on the dangers of a possible showdown between atomic powers – a prospect ‘once unthinkable’ but ‘now back within the realm of possibility.’
And he warned the war already risked triggering a ‘meltdown of the global food system’ – with both Ukraine and Russia vital suppliers of wheat to dozens of the world’s least developed countries.
Guterres called for peace last night, saying: ‘Ukraine is on fire.’ He told reporters: ‘The country is being decimated before the eyes of the world.
‘The impact on civilians is reaching terrifying proportions. Countless innocent people – including women and children – have been killed.
‘After being hit by Russian forces, roads, airports and schools lie in ruins. According to the World Health Organisation, at least 24 health facilities have suffered attacks. Hundreds of thousands of people are without water or electricity.
‘With each passing hour, two things are increasingly clear: first, it keeps getting worse.
‘Second, whatever the outcome, this war will have no winners, only losers.’
During its videoconference talks with Russian representatives, Ukraine said it was demanding ‘peace, an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops’.
A view shows a thermal power plant destroyed by shelling, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Okhtyrka, in the Sumy region, Ukraine, on Monday
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Putin had ordered his forces ‘to hold back on any immediate assault on large cities because the civilian losses would be large’.
However he said Russia’s defence ministry ‘does not rule out the possibility of putting large cities, which are already almost fully encircled, under its full control’.
Russia’s forces had earlier focused on eastern and southern areas of Ukraine – home to more ethnic Russians – but in recent days have moved to the country’s centre.
But Russian troops have kept up their siege of southern Mariupol, where officials said more than 2,500 people have been killed.
But the Ukrainian military said on Monday night it had repelled yet another Russian attempt to take control of the strategic port city.
The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said in a statement that Russian forces retreated after suffering losses.
Video emerged showing the moment a Russian armoured vehicle, which was marked with the notorious ‘Z’ sign, was obliterated by Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol.
Footage shows Ukrainian troops firing a series of shots at the armoured infantry fighting vehicle in the port city, leaving the Russian soldiers cowering behind it.
The footage was filmed inside an armoured personnel carrier, where Ukrainian troops from the Azov Battalion unit could be seen looking at a video screen showing their targets going up in flames.
The Russian military has besieged the Azov Sea port city of 430,000 for a week and a half, leaving its residents desperate for power, water and food. More than 2,500 residents of Mariupol have been killed by the Russian shelling.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in televised remarks that Russian shelling on Monday thwarted another attempt to deliver food and medicines to the city.
A humanitarian convoy of 160 civilian cars left Mariupol after repeated failures to evacuate civilians because of Russian shelling.
Video shows Ukrainian troops firing a series of shots at the armoured vehicle, which is marked with the notorious ‘Z’ sign, in the port city of Mariupol, leaving the Russian soldiers cowering behind it
Dramatic footage has emerged showing the moment a Russian armoured vehicle was obliterated by a Ukrainian soldiers
The Ukrainian troops opened fire on the Russian armoured vehicle in Mariupol
In Kyiv only roads to the south remain open, according to the Ukrainian presidency. City authorities have set up checkpoints, and residents are stockpiling food and medicine.
The northwestern suburb of Bucha is held by Russian forces, along with parts of Irpin, Ukrainian soldiers told AFP, although the Russians are encountering resistance east and west of the capital according to AFP journalists on the scene.
Meanwhile, Moscow also admitted that a top spy has been killed in Ukraine, adding to a lengthening list of senior commanders that Putin has now lost.
Captain Alexey Glushchak, 31, is the first member of the feared GRU that Moscow has admitted losing during the conflict.
The foreign military intelligence agency was behind the 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury as well as a number of assassinations around the world. Gluschak, a father-of-one from Tyumen, Siberia, was caught in the bombardment of Mariupol and killed while on a ‘top secret’ operation.
Ukraine claims to have killed three Russian major-generals out of about 20 thought to be in the country. In total, Putin has now lost a dozen of his top brass.
Putin is not a man who like compromise but talk of a diplomatic solution between Russia and Ukraine is in the air, writes MARK GALEOTTI, so how will a deal to end the bloodshed look?
By Mark Galeotti for the Daily Mail
Vladimir Putin is not a man who likes to compromise. Yet less than three weeks since the Russian president began his brutal assault on Ukraine, talk of a diplomatic solution hovers in the air.
As one Ukrainian negotiator put it on Sunday: ‘Russia is already beginning to talk constructively’.
Nor is this the first example of unexpectedly shifting sands in this evolving conflict: eight days ago, the Kremlin announced they were ready to halt military operations ‘in a moment’ if Kyiv met a list of conditions. Such language represented a dramatic departure from Putin’s initial all-conquering bombast.
The scale of the Kremlin’s embarrassment at its signal failure to humble Ukraine has been underlined by reports over the weekend that Sergey Beseda, head of the foreign service at the FSB – successor to the KGB and the agency that Putin ran before he became president – has been placed under house arrest.
Vladimir Putin is not a man who likes to compromise. Yet less than three weeks since the Russian president began his brutal assault on Ukraine, talk of a diplomatic solution hovers in the air
Given his status as a key figure in shaping Russian policy on Ukraine, if Beseda has indeed been incarcerated, it suggests Putin is already looking for a scapegoat for the lack of a clear victory so far – the hallmark of a man having to confront the fact he has bitten off more than he can chew.
The good news is that if Russia is in the mood for compromise then there is plenty of scope for it, especially given Putin’s own marketing of his ‘special military operation’ – to protect ethnic Russians and stop a westernised Ukraine from being a threat to its former Soviet partners.
How might a peace deal look? The ‘red line’ issues from a Russian perspective are the retention of Crimea on Ukraine’s southern coast and the Donbas region in the east of the country – both of which Putin wants to hold on to fully and permanently – and an undertaking by Ukraine not to join Nato.
These in turn may be palatable concessions for President Zelensky, who – for all his public and heroic nationalism – is also a realist who has no desire to see further unnecessary bloodshed.
After all, the reality is that the ‘people’s republics’ of occupied Donbas are today thuggish states run by embezzlers and warlords. As such, they are no great loss to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, if Zelensky is given reassurances by the West that they will help boost his country’s defences, with the installation of an integrated air-defence system, for example, then I believe he may take the view that the security provided by Nato membership would be largely unnecessary, on the grounds that Ukraine could defend itself.
While Zelensky will be prepared to forgo membership of western Europe’s military alliance, however, he will be determined to press ahead with entry into its economic one: the EU.
The prospect of a loosening of sanctions in return may mollify Putin on this highly contentious point.
While such a settlement would fall far short of the full military victory Putin intended, it is something he could spin to his people by claiming he has ‘saved’ the Russians of eastern Ukraine from ‘genocide’.
A thin justification perhaps, in the light of his earlier proclamations, but a marketable one nonetheless – particularly if you have the state media on your side.
President Zelensky, who – for all his public and heroic nationalism – is also a realist who has no desire to see further unnecessary bloodshed
Bluntly, it also increasingly appears to be his best option.
The alternative is months or years spent stuck in a military quagmire, such as the one the Soviet Union experienced in Afghanistan.
Ongoing guerrilla warfare in a fragmented country effectively split in half by the Dnieper River, with rebel-held areas under Russian control in the east and Ukrainian resistance in the west, would not look like victory.
Alas, we cannot expect a swift resolution to hostilities. Putin, certainly, will want to be seen to have strengthened his hand rather more before he extends it in negotiation.
That means sadly further destruction, and more loss of life, before we see a real end to this terrible war.
Yet there is no question that Ukraine’s brave citizens have fought their way to the negotiating table – and for that we must salute them.
- Mark Galeotti is honorary professor at the University College London School of Slavonic and East European Studies and author of We Need To Talk About Putin
Putin’s forces may only be able to keep up the fight for another 14 days, defence sources say Source link Putin’s forces may only be able to keep up the fight for another 14 days, defence sources say