On Friday, Russia expanded its military attack in Ukraine, hitting near airports in the west for the first time, while witnesses and satellite photographs suggested that Russian forces, long stopped in a convoy outside Kyiv, were repositioning in a bid to encircle the capital.
The United States and its allies are preparing to intensify their attempts to isolate and censure Russia by withdrawing the country’s most favored trade status. With the invasion now in its third week, fresh developments on the ground indicated that Russia’s soldiers were regrouping, pounding new cities as they tightened their 10-day-old siege on Mariupol, a crucial Ukrainian port city where tens of thousands were battling to get food.
Russia’s fresh attacks in western Ukraine were most likely a warning that no place was secure. Russian soldiers have struggled in the face of heavier-than-expected opposition, as well as supply and morale issues, according to Western and Ukrainian sources. They have made the most progress in the south and east so far, but have stalled in the north and around Kyiv.
According to Lutsk Mayor Ihor Polishchuk, strikes on the western Lutsk airfield killed four Ukrainian military and injured six more. After an air raid alarm, people in Ivano-Frankivsk were told to seek shelter, according to Mayor Ruslan Martsinkiv.
Igor Konashenkov, a spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, claimed Friday that Russia employed high-precision long-range missiles to “take out of service” military airfields in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk. He didn’t go into much depth.
New satellite photographs appeared to reveal that the vast Russian convoy outside the Ukrainian capital had expanded out towards adjacent villages and woods, which may be worrisome.
According to Maxar Technologies, the company that created the photos, howitzers were hauled into positions to launch fire, and armored forces were visible in communities near the Antonov Airport north of the city.
Early last week, a 40-mile (64-kilometer) line of vehicles, tanks, and artillery gathered outside Kyiv. However, their advance looked to have stalled due to reports of food and fuel shortages, as well as anti-tank missiles fired by Ukrainian soldiers.
According to Jack Watling, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in the United Kingdom, the convoy troops were now advancing west around the city, working their way south to encircle it.
He informed reporters, “They’re almost halfway around now.” Because of poor morale and logistical issues, he believes they are planning a “siege rather than an attack” on Kyiv. According to the regional government, a missile hit the settlement of Baryshivka on Kyiv’s eastern outskirts on Friday, severely destroying structures.
After making “limited progress,” Russian forces are attempting to “re-set and re-position” their soldiers in preparation for operations against Kyiv, according to the British Ministry of Defense.
Moscow has also stated that it intends to send Syrian fighters into the fighting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has given his approval to the influx of “volunteer” fighters, instructing his military minister to assist them in “moving to the fighting zone.” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, revealed that the “volunteers” include Syrian fighters.
According to a Kremlin translation, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed Russia had received “more than 16,000 applications” from nations in the Middle East, many of them from people he said had assisted Russia in its fight against the Islamic State.
Russian military have helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against different opposition groups, including Islamic State, since 2015. Russian recruiting efforts for the Ukraine war have also been claimed by Syrian opposition groups. However, they believe that the number of volunteers has been in the hundreds or thousands thus far.
The United States and other countries might revoke Russia’s “most favored country” trade status, allowing for higher duties on some Russian goods. Western sanctions have already hit Russia hard, driving the currency to plummet, foreign companies to flee, and prices to skyrocket.
Putin has stated that Russia can withstand sanctions. Putin claimed there had been “some good steps” in Russia-Ukraine relations after meeting with Belarus’ president in Moscow. He did not, however, provide any other information.
In the meanwhile, the attack against Ukrainian cities has intensified.
In Syria, Russia helped the government in enforcing protracted, cruel sieges on opposition-held cities, inflicting havoc on residential areas and killing a large number of civilians. This history, along with the current siege of Mariupol, the Azov Sea port, has sparked worries of more carnage in Ukraine.
Russian airstrikes hit Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city and a vital location on the Dnieper River, for the first time on Friday. Dnipro is a significant industrial hub and Ukraine’s fourth-largest city. According to Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Anton Heraschenko, three strikes occurred, killing at least one person.
Firefighters doused a blazing structure and scattered ash fell over bleeding rubble in photographs issued by Ukraine’s state emergency agency in the aftermath of the strikes. Where buildings formerly existed, smoke billowed from splintered concrete and fallen sidings.
The strikes in the west and in Dnipro, according to the Ukrainian military staff, were conducted because the Russians were “unable to succeed” on other fronts. According to the report, Russian soldiers are gathering in the north and around the eastern cities of Sumy and Kharkiv on Friday, with their efforts concentrating around Kyiv and Mariupol.
Temperatures plummeted below freezing over much of Ukraine, with Kharkiv, which has been bombarded, expected to reach -13 degrees Celsius (8 degrees Fahrenheit). About 400 apartment complexes were cut off from heat, prompting Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov to urge people to seek refuge in the subway system or other subterranean shelters, where officials and volunteers were giving blankets and hot meals.
A devastating strike this week on a maternity facility in Mariupol aroused international outcry and accusations of probable war crimes.
Residents in Mariupol said that the shelling resumed on Friday. According to Konashenkov, a spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, Russian-backed forces have advanced up to 800 meters from Mariupol from the east, north, and west, further compressing the city, which is bordered on the south by the Azov Sea. He stated the offensive was led by separatist-held Donetsk area forces, which is the typical Russian line for combat in the east.
Ukrainian authorities want to deliver help to Mariupol, which has a population of 430,000 people, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk in a video message.
Previous attempts failed because Russian bombardment targeted assistance and rescue convoys, even as people became increasingly desperate and scrounged for food and gasoline.
According to Vereshchuk, more than 1,300 people have perished as a result of the siege. “They intend to exterminate Mariupol’s population.” They want to starve them,” she continued. “It’s a crime against humanity.”
There is no heat or phone service for the residents. In mass graves, bodies are being buried. According to Sacha Volkov, a local Red Cross representative, grocery stores and pharmacies were empty days ago by individuals breaking in to collect supplies. Vegetables are plentiful on the illegal market, but meat is scarce, according to Volkov.
Residents are turning on one another, according to Volkov: “People started attacking one other for food.”
Vereshchuk also announced plans to build new humanitarian corridors around the cities of Kherson in the south, Chernihiv in the north, and Kharkiv in the east to provide aid to those living in areas occupied or under Russian bombardment.
According to the International Organization for Migration, 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began. Millions more people have been forced to flee their homes. According to Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, around 2 million people have fled the capital, accounting for half of the metropolitan area’s population.