Ukraine Invasion Day 26: “If they climb inside, it’s their fault.”

Time and anti-tank weapons favor the Ukrainians even if air superiority remains complicated. An extended siege of Kyiv looks possible with the current stalemate, and long-range bombardment continues. Mercenaries are being recruited to support Russian forces. The disinformation campaign continues, including the relocation of some of the Mariupol population elsewhere, including to Russia.

Ukraine has rejected a Russian ultimatum to surrender the strategic port city Mariupol on coast of the Sea of Azov
This was announced by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk in a comment to Ukrainian Pravda, Ukrinform reports.According to the official, the Russian Ministry of Defense has sent an official letter to Ukraine, issuing an ultimatum: Ukrainian defenders must lay down their weapons and withdraw from Mariupol, and only under such conditions will the evacuation of civilians be possible.

“There are eight pages of revisiting history and other delusional things. They have sent the same letter to the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and hoped that international organizations would react and start exerting pressure on Ukraine. This didn’t happen. ICRC and UN understand that this is Russian manipulation, and that this is hostage-taking,” Vereshchuk said.

www.ukrinform.net/…

Key Takeaways

  • The Ukrainian General Staff reported for the first time that the Kremlin is preparing its population for a “long war” in Ukraine and implementing increasingly draconian mobilization measures, including deploying youth military organization members aged 17-18.
  • Ukrainian forces reportedly killed three Russian regimental commanders in the last 24 hours.
  • Russia’s Wagner Group will likely facilitate the deployment of Libyan fighters to Ukraine.
  • Russian forces are digging in to positions around Kyiv, including the first reports of the war of Russian forces deploying minefields.
  • Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian assault on Izyum, southeast of Kharkiv, and inflicted heavy casualties.
  • Russian forces continued their slow advance into Mariupol but did not achieve any major territorial gains.
  • Ukrainian forces launched further localized counterattacks around Mykolayiv.

The Ukrainian General Staff reported for the first time that the Kremlin is preparing its population for a “long war” in Ukraine and implementing increasingly draconian mobilization measures.[1] The General Staff reported the Russian military commissariats of the Kuban, Primorsky Krai, Yaroslavl Oblast, and Ural Federal Districts are conducting covert mobilization measures but are facing widespread resistance. The General Staff reported the Russian PMC Wagner Group will facilitate the transport of Libyan fighters from LNA leader Khalifa Haftar’s forces to Ukraine. The General Staff reported universities in the DNR and LNR are conscripting students above the age of 18 and that most units in the DNR’s 1st Army Corps are comprised of the “mobilized population,” rather than trained soldiers, and face low morale and equipment shortages…

Russian forces face mounting casualties among officers and increasingly frequent desertion and insubordination.

[…]

The Ukrainian MoD reported that forced mobilization in the DNR has demoralized Russian proxy forces, with many refusing to fight and accusing Russian leadership of forcing them into combat to find Ukrainian troop positions. The Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported the number of insubordinate Russian personnel who are refusing combat orders is “sharply increasing” in the Kherson and Mykolayiv oblasts on March 20.[8]

Ukrainian military intelligence (the GUR) reported on March 20 that another group of mercenaries connected with Yevgeny Prigozhin and the “League”/Wagner Group began arriving in Ukraine on March 20.[10] The GUR claimed this group aims to eliminate Ukraine’s top military and political leadership, including Volodymyr Zelensky, Andriy Yermak, and Denys Shmyhal. The GUR claimed Russia is turning to assassination plans due to the failure of Russian conventional operations.

understandingwar.org/…

Kyiv remains the biggest prize of all for the Russian military; it is the seat of government and ingrained in both Russian and Ukrainian identity. But capturing it, military analysts say, would require a furious and bloody conflict that could be the world’s biggest urban battle in 80 years.

[…]

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 in 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.[…]

On a roadside were two empty carrying tubes for American-supplied Javelin anti-tank missiles. “Raytheon/Lockheed Martin,” read the stenciled markings. “Guided missile surface attack.” Ukrainians have been joking that, after the war, they will use these tubes to store potatoes.

www.nytimes.com/…

#Russia invaded #Ukraine in order to conquer it. Ukraine is fighting a war of self-defense for its continued existence as a state.
Big picture, Ukraine succeeds or fails based on whether it emerges from this war intact. I’d argue that includes all territory (#Crimea)
3/
However, the lens we use to evaluate the war overall isn’t the right frame for evaluating its initial phase
Big picture, every inch Russian forces take is a loss for #Ukraine
But this lens blurs the ebb & flow of the struggle of wills on the battlefield as the war is fought
4/
Analyzing the battle of wills in war requires evaluating each side’s ability to achieve their objectives while denying the adversary’s
#Russia’s objectives when it invaded were to seize #Kyiv#Kharkiv#Odesa & force a change in government.
It has achieved none.
5/
The logistics, sustainment, & morale problems plaguing Russian forces are well covered. These limitations have certainly hindered #Russia’s campaign.
But #Ukraine has also waged a capable defense to deny Russia these objectives. In doing so, it has won an important phase.
6/
Our team assesses that #Russia’s forces have “culminated,” meaning they’ve lost the capacity to continue their campaign as constructed
This doesn’t mean they are defeated or can’t fight. Local battles will continue. But the initial campaign is over.
A huge win for #Ukraine
7/
Now, a war is more than one campaign. This war is far from over.
But #Ukraine has fought #Russia’s forces to a stalemate on many fronts
It has defeated Russia’s initial campaign by denying its objectives & breaking its operational cohesion.
8/
Russian forces will likely regroup & attempt to launch a new campaign. That campaign’s near-term (operational) objectives will likely be lower than those of the initial invasion, now that Russia knows it cant get from here to strategic victory in one bound as #Putin expected
9/
It is also important to unpack what stalemate means.
It does not mean an end to the killing.
Stalemates can be even more violent than prior phases.
Amidst this grinding attrition, #Russia’s violence against #Ukraine’s civilians will likely grow
10/

• • •

2/It’s not “distraction” or “crazy talk.” They are showing you their next moves. While they may not exercise every option they seed with narratives, the ones with the most investment usually are used to justify the biggest real-world action. When they spend years investing…
3/in a narrative set, pushing it through many channels, it’s because they are planning to utilize it. The ground needs preparation for that to work; hence the long investment and wide distribution.
And it’s not always projection, though it sometimes is. The “biolabs”…
4/narrative may not presage use of biological or chemical weapons, though it could. What it tells us is they are investing in the option to do *something* that could be justified by false narratives about biolabs. That could be tactical nukes, wider engagement, or anything else.
5/Always look at where/how much they are investing in different information narratives. That’s the closest thing to an open playbook one can examine from them, and it usually yields at least some good insights about what their future intentions are.
This is also a very good analytic device — always keep track of who is amplifying what, when, and why.

• • •

The Kremlin is showcasing individual Russian soldiers it says fell heroically in battle. And it’s showing senior officials pinning medals on lightly-wounded troops in hospital.
But it isn’t saying how many Russian troops in total have been killed.
The last update was on March 2, when the government said 498 troops had been killed. The Russian public has had no new numbers since then. (See our MSNBC coverage of that below.)
Putin condemned the West this week for “speculating on the combat losses”.
Russian state TV spent a lot of time talking about high gas prices in the US – saying they were a sign of American sanctions backfiring.
And a lot of clips of Fox’s Tucker Carlson criticising the US or Ukraine. Like several times a day.
Russian state TV also jumped on comments by Republican congressman Madison Cawthorn, who called Zelenskyy “a thug”. That got played over and over.
Endless claims that Ukraine is led by neo-Nazis.
Sometimes cloaked as a history lesson (a lot of talk about Bandera, a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist who died in 1959).
But often it’d more blatant, like this clip claiming to show a Nazi flag in a captured Ukrainian base.

• • •

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