Map Courtesy Geology.com
On the 27th Day of the Russian offensive named by Moscow as, “Special Military Operation,” though the contours of the same have expanded beyond an operation to a campaign, there are a number of areas where confrontations are ongoing on the ground between the Ukrainian and the Russian Armed forces.
While the Northern (Kyiv) and North Eastern (Kharkiv) fronts have seen a stalemate for some days now with limited actions, in the East and the South multiple clashes are ongoing with the city of Mariupol seeing the heaviest fighting.
Read more at Russian Campaign Objectives and Outcomes – March 22
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has deployed the Russian Rosgvardia for clearance of the streets. Pitched battles with tanks and ground troops clearing block by block have been seen on social media videos and photos many of these being part of the information campaign by both sides. What these denote however is the fighting front in Mariupol.
In the East, stiff fighting is ongoing in Donetsk as well as the Luhansk Oblast as per the Ukrainian General Staff.
The areas where confrontation is ongoing are in Popasna, Kurakhove, Rubizhne and Severodonetsk.
Expected Fighting Fronts
While presently the Russian forces have established a land corridor to Crimea, this is narrow and only on clearance of Mariupol will there be enough depth to expand their operations northwards to Zaporizhian and Dnipro.
Simultaneously reopening fighting in the Kyiv and Kharkiv fronts can be anticipated though progress here will remain slow.
Targeting by artillery, missiles, air and helicopter attacks is expected to continue.
However, for further gains, Russian forces will have to generate more combat power. Reinforcements, regrouping and logistics preparations would be necessary.
There are indications that forces are being transferred from other Fronts. Russian troops deployed in Syria, Syrian Arab Army units and militia are expected to be mobilized including the Hezbollah of Lebanon though the group as well as Syrian government has denied the same.
Objective of Further Russian Operations
In case the Russian armed forces regroup and enlarge the offensive the aim would be to gain strategic depth by seizing areas of the Donbass and East along the line of the Dnieper from Kherson North to Dnipro and Kharkov.
Much will depend on how the operations in Mariupol goes and with Ukrainian forces providing heavy resistance progress of these will be slow with casualties given the nature of combat that has been evident in the past four weeks.
Prospects of Cease Fire
Humanitarian corridors have been established but the scale of numbers is so large that there are multiple logistics challenges and providing relief to thousands is virtually impossible. Cessation of hostilities remain the best option.
While tensions between Ukraine and Russia continue to be high at the political level even as the geopolitical environment is extremely volatile, negotiations are ongoing and there is always a hope of a cease fire, however prior to that both sides will have to agree to cessation of hostilities.
Priority of negotiations has to stop the fighting while larger issues of Ukraine’s neutrality, recognition of, “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic,” and Crimea and so on can be decided subsequently.
A recognition that objectives cannot be achieved without major humanitarian challenges and losses including devastation of large civil infrastructure of Ukraine should lead to compromises.
The alternative of a long insurgency campaign where proxies on both sides front end the combat has portends beyond Ukraine with triggers of involvement of NATO and is best avoided.
Can the Emergency Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly being held today (23 March) provide scope for furthering dialogue remains to be seen?
Note: Information in this report is based on releases by the Ukranian government on social media and posts on messaging platforms. Due care is taken to verify the same but cannot be fully authenticated.