Russian Amphibious Ships Arrive In Captured Ukrainian City
Additional Russian forces have arrived in Berdyansk just to the southwest of the besieged strategic port city of Mariupol.
Russian forces in Ukraine look set to close another day of fighting at the very best having made limited new gains. In the meantime, they continue to target a number of encircled cities to routine air, missile, and artillery strikes, which has led to hundreds of civilian casualties and driven millions more from their homes. Today, Russian warships arrived at Berdyansk, an occupied city on the Sea of Azov that is situated near the key port city of Mariupol, which remains in Ukrainian hands. Local authorities in Mariupol, which has been subjected to a particularly brutal siege for more than a week now, said today that a convoy of civilians had finally been able to safely flee the area.
Before diving into the latest news below, readers should be sure to get themselves up to speed on the state of the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine, which is now in its third week, with our prior rolling coverage here.
You can find out continuing rolling coverage of the conflict in Ukraine here.
UPDATED: 6:00 PM EST—
Estonia's parliament, or Riigikogu, has passed a resolution that, among other things, calls on United Nations member states to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine and for countries of the world to enforce sanctions and enact a trade embargo against Russia and Belarus. Estonian lawmakers also called on other nations to close their airspace and ports to Russian aircraft and ships and voiced support for Ukraine's future membership in the European Union and NATO.
Estonia is an EU and a NATO member, and this resolution comes after the alliance decided formally not to respond to appeals from Ukrainian authorities to establish a no-fly zone over the country. A no-fly zone would put NATO in a direct military confrontation with the Kremlin, raising the risk of a larger regional conflict erupting.
The prospects of the United Nations providing a firm legal mandate for a no-fly zone seem equally remote. Russia is a permeant member of the U.N. Security Council and has the power to veto any resolution that might authorize such a mission.
The Financial Times newspaper has reported that not only did the U.S. government have information that Russia had sought military assistance from the Chinese government to assist in its current operations in Ukraine, but that authorities in Beijing were at least open to the idea. American officials met with their Chinese counterparts over this matter, which both Russia and China have denied is even being discussed.
The Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has reportedly been subjected to another night of intense shelling.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has released what it says is footage, likely shot using a video camera on an unmanned aircraft, of a missile strike targeting a Ukrainian rocket artillery unit.
Below are some new and interesting pictures of Ukrainian special operations forces with various weapons, including British-supplied NLAW guided anti-tank missiles.
The British government says it has seen no evidence to support Russia's claims Ukraine is preparing to launch chemical or biological weapon attacks. The Russian government has continued to make a variety of wholly unsubstantiated allegations about provocations that Ukrainian authorities and their international partners, especially the United States, are purportedly preparing to carry out in order to justify its ongoing operations in the country.
Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at Russia's state-run Channel One television network, made a bold on-air protest against the war in Ukraine.
A group of individuals in the British capital London have occupied a mansion owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska in protest of the war in Ukraine.
UPDATED: 2:50 PM EST—
Russian forces have launched more than 900 ballistic and cruise missiles at targets in Ukraine since its invasion began, according to a senior U.S. defense official. Russia's military maintains some 90 percent of the combat capacity it arrayed around the country in the lead-up to conflict, as well.
These strikes include "more than a couple dozen" cruise missiles that Russian bombers launched at a Ukrainian base close to the Polish border on Sunday. Yavoriv, which is less than 15 miles from Poland, had hosted a contingent of U.S. military personnel on an advisory mission until shortly before the invasion began. No American troops are presently there and the Pentagon says that it is not a transshipment point for U.S. and other foreign military assistance, which is continuing to flow into Ukraine.
The Pentagon says it is still not considering supplying Ukraine with more advanced air defense systems or additional combat aircraft, such as second-hand MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets, despite Ukraine's request. The U.S. military's position has been that there are more effective ways to bolster Ukrainian air defenses and other capabilities.
The Kremlin does not appear to be moving any additional reserve forces toward Ukraine to bolster its forces in the country, but is now actively "advertising for foreign fighters," according to a senior U.S. defense official. The Russian military is also still resupplying forces in Ukraine from stocks moved to areas along the border with the country. Ukrainian forces are actively working to interdict those supply chains.
Ukraine's fleet of Turkish-made TB2 drones continues to be an important factor in strikes on Russian logistical elements and other units. The Kremlin's forces have still not been able to achieve air superiority, according to a senior U.S. defense official, who added that the situation in the skies above the country has been shifting "literally hour to hour."
The U.S. military believes Russian forces are attempting to prevent Ukrainian forces from retreating out of the Donbas region, moving a force with dozens of vehicles into an apparent position to try to block their movement. Russia's military has sought to regroup its own forces for new offensives, but continues to struggle to make major gains and a "siege mentality" continues to dominate its current operations.
James Heappey, a British member parliament and the country's Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, Tweeted today that he had visited a facility in Stuttgart, Germany, that is being used to coordinate military aid to Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities now say that between 600 and 700 people were able to evacuate Mariupol in the convoy earlier today, but have accused Russia of blocking additional evacuations. An aid convoy was also reportedly prevented from entering the city.
Commercial satellite imagery indicates that a group of Russian naval vessels positioned off the western coast of Crimea largely remain in place. There have been concerns for weeks now that the Kremlin might be about to launch a new offensive along Ukraine's Black Sea coastline, including amphibious landings as part of an effort to take the port city of Odesa. So far, this has not materialized.
Russian forces look to have shelled the Antonov aviation company's main plant near Kyiv today. This facility, among other things, reportedly houses an unfinished second example of the An-225 Mriya aircraft. What had been the only flying example of the An-225, one of the largest aircraft in the world, was destroyed earlier in the fighting.
A picture has appeared on social media reportedly showing that Ukrainian forces have captured a relatively rare Russian 2S34 self-propelled gun-mortar, nicknamed the Khosta or Hosta. These vehicles are conversions of older 2S1 Gvozdika 122mm self-propelled howitzers that feature a new turret with a 120mm gun-mortar.
POSTED: 1:35 PM EST—
Russian Navy amphibious warships and other vessels arrived in Berdyansk earlier today. Russian forces claimed to have first captured this port city on the Sea of Azov on February 27, just days after the invasion kicked off.
In addition, Russian forces in Berdyansk showed off captured Ukrainian hardware, including some 10 navy and coast guard vessels, to reporters from the quasi-state media outlet RT. At least two Ukrainian Gyurza-M class patrol boats are among those now in Russian hands. Russia's security services had previously seized a pair of these vessels, along with a Ukrainian Navy tug, during an incident in the Sea of Azov in 2018, before returning them the following year.
The appearance of additional Russian forces in Berdyansk comes as the Kremlin continues to try to tighten its grip on Mariupol, also on the Sea of Azov and still under Ukrainian control, to the northeast.
Local authorities in Mariupol said that an evacuation convoy consisting of 160 civilian cars was able to safely leave the city today. They added that those vehicles had then successfully made it past Berdyansk and were heading toward Zaporozhye to the north, which remains in Ukrainian hands.
Mariupol remains a key objective for Russian forces in Ukraine. Capturing the city can only help them fully secure the coastline along the Sea of Azov, which provides a landbridge between western Russia and the occupied Crimean Peninsula via breakaway areas of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's top spokesperson, said today that Russian forces may well push to take over other major cities in Ukraine, something that has long appeared to be part of the Kremlin's overall operational plan.
Ukrainian authorities have tried multiple times already to help civilians evacuate from Mariupol through designated "humanitarian coordinators" negotiated with Russian officials. All the previous attempts have failed amid accusations that Russian forces refused to honor temporary ceasefires to allow convoys to leave the area safely. Hundreds of thousands of civilians still remain trapped in the city. Earlier today, it had been reported that Ukrainian officials had still not secured sufficient guarantees regarding an evacuation from Mariupol, despite having negotiated safe passage for civilians leaving other cities.
For more than a week now Mariupol has been encircled, cutting off supplies to the city. Officials there have said that residents have been without running water and heat for days now. Routine and indiscriminate Russian shelling and other attacks have left the city increasingly devastated overall. Mariupol was notably the site of a now-infamous strike on a children's/maternity hospital last week. A pregnant woman who was seen in one of the pictures taken in the immediate aftermath of that attack has now reportedly died along with her unborn child.
Ukrainian forces in and around Mariupol have refused to cede the city and are still fighting against Russian forces. The video in the Tweet below reportedly shows Ukrainian forces in a BTR-4 wheeled armored personnel carrier engaging Russian armored vehicles in relatively close-quarters street-fighting.
Russian air, artillery missile strikes continue to pound other major cities in Ukraine, especially in the eastern half of the country, including the capital Kyiv. Wladimir Klitschko, brother of Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko, posted the video below on social media today showing some of the damage inflicted on that city.
The video below reportedly shows the remains of an intercepted missile falling inside Kyiv.
The skies over Ukraine continue to be contested even after more than two weeks. Ukrainian forces are still employing ground-based air defenses, including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, also known as man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), to great effect. The Russian Ministry of Defense released a video today, seen below, showing an Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack aircraft that it said made it back to base after being hit by a MANPADS.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed yesterday that the Russian military had lost nearly 13,000 personnel, as well as dozens of planes and helicopters, among other things. Those numbers are much higher than independent estimates and cannot be readily confirmed.
There were reports today that at least one Tochka short-range ballistic missile loaded with cluster munitions hit the city of Donetsk, which has been under the control of Kremlin-backed separatists since 2015. Ukraine and Russia both have stocks of these missiles and have employed them in the conflict already. Separatist authorities have blamed Ukrainian forces for the attack, but also said that they had intercepted the missile, raising questions about whether the city center was the intended target.
A video has emerged online that reportedly shows a modified BMW 6 series convertible with a 12.7mm NSV heavy machine gun fitted at the back. It's unclear whether or not this car is actually being employed as a makeshift combat vehicle.
Ukrainian authorities say that the fourth round of negotiations with Russian officials, which began earlier today, has now been paused until tomorrow. The talks today were conducted via video conference unlike previous meetings, which were held in-person at a site near the Belarusian border.
Energoatom, Ukraine's state-run nuclear enterprise, issued a statement saying that Russian forces had conducted a controlled detonation of explosives at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and that more were planned. It's unclear why Russia's military is carrying out this activity at this nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, which it took control of last week.
Potential risks to nuclear infrastructure in Ukraine continue to be of general concern. Power was reportedly cut again to the site of the now-defunct Chernobyl power plant. A spent fuel rod storage facility and others there need outside power to continue to operate safely.
Israel has said publicly for the first time that it will comply with international sanctions against Russia.
Russia has denied U.S. government claims that it is seeking military assistance from China to continue its operations in Ukraine.
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