As fighting intensifies in eastern Ukraine, Russian commanders are under increasing pressure to win on the battlefield, even if it means risking what could backfire, says a Briton Military Intelligence Assessment said Friday.
The assessment cites widely-viewed footage of Russian armored vehicles being destroyed while trying to cross a river, in which be posted online by the Ukrainian military. These images cannot be independently verified.
Meanwhile, Russian forces on Friday targeted new punitive barrages in the north, east and south of the country, including bombing the last Ukrainian fortress in the shattered southern port of Mariupol.
Repeated attempts by the Kyiv government to broker a deal to evacuate wounded soldiers from a sprawling steel plant — the last of the city’s territory controlled by Ukrainian forces — have so far failed.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has launched what it calls its first war crimes lawsuit, stemming from the nearly 3-month invasion. A 21-year-old Russian tank commander appeared in court on Friday for shooting and killing an unarmed civilian on a bicycle in a village in northeastern Ukraine.
In a bid to intensify Western pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said the bloc would soon revisit the concept of an oil embargo against Russia. Hungary has so far resisted such a step, but Borrell expressed confidence that the reservations could be overcome.
“We need this deal, and we will have it,” he said on Friday as G7 foreign ministers from wealthy democracies gathered in Germany.
Ukrainian troops successfully pushed Russian troops away from the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, on the battlefield, more than a month after Russia halted its attempt to seize the capital, Kyiv, Ukrainian and Western military officials said.
But Russian forces have slowly made some progress elsewhere in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, and the heavy use of artillery on populated areas is causing horrific civilian casualties.
While the front has been unstable in some areas, and some villages have repeatedly changed hands, clashes along the 300-mile front have punctuated some decisive losses and gains. More than a dozen Russian armored vehicles were destroyed as they tried to cross the Seversky Donets River near the village of Bilokhorivka in Luhansk, which constitutes the main battleground of the war, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday. One of the two provinces in the region.
Western analysis of the event puts it against the backdrop of other setbacks the Russian military has suffered during the war, including an earlier failed attempt to capture Kyiv, saying Moscow’s military leaders could be increasingly coerced as a result.
“River crossing in a contested environment is a high-risk operation and shows that Russian commanders are under pressure to make progress in operations in eastern Ukraine,” the UK’s daily military assessment said.
The intelligence report said that, based on images of the incident, Russia lost “significant armored maneuver forces” of at least one battalion tactical group.
“Russia’s strategic failure is there for all to see,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared in an overnight video address, hours after Finland’s leader expressed support for joining the NATO alliance on Thursday, marking a fundamental shift in Europe’s security architecture.
The Kremlin responded to Finland’s statement, and Sweden may soon issue a similar statement threatening unspecified “military-technical” measures. Both the White House and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg have welcomed membership applications from Finland and Sweden.
Russia’s forces have seized suburban and satellite towns north and west of Kyiv for weeks after Russia’s retreat from areas near the Ukrainian capital. Behind them, Russian troops have left a trove of evidence of atrocities against Ukrainian civilians, which Moscow denies.
Ukraine said it was investigating thousands of alleged war crimes but the trial of Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin, who appeared in a Kyiv court on Friday, was the first of its kind since the war began. A Russian sergeant captured by Ukrainian troops could face life in prison for the shooting death of an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in the northern village of Chupahiva.
G7 foreign ministers held their seventh such meeting since the February 24 invasion as Western nations continued to find ways to stop Putin from continuing the war. At a meeting in Germany, British Foreign Secretary Liz Strass urged allies to keep economic sanctions in place until Russian troops leave Ukraine, the BBC reported.
According to the BBC, Truss told the meeting that Putin had “inflicted humiliation on the world stage” in Ukraine.
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