As the conflict across Ukraine enters its sixth day and the battle for Kyiv results in ever more destruction and displacement, a second wave of Russian forces are reportedly on the march in an attempt to overwhelm the Ukrainian capital.
U.K. intelligence reports published on Tuesday revealed that the Russian siege of Kyiv had made “little progress” in the past 24 hours, citing “logistical difficulties” as a probable reason for the sluggish advance of Russian forces.
As such, the Russian army has adjusted its focus on Tuesday towards Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, and the smaller northern city of Chernihiv, increasing its use of heavy artillery which U.K. intelligence warns has greatly increased the risk of civilian casualties in the densely populated urban areas.
Video footage circulating on social media on Tuesday morning showed the destruction caused by a missile strike on the Regional State Administration building in Kharkiv, while similar devastating video purports to show continued Russian shelling of residential areas in the southern city of Kherson, a key economic and administrative center of Ukraine.
The Russian interest in striking other northern Ukraine cities however, appears to be short-lived with all major global news outlets confirming satellite images which purport to show a Russian military convoy stretching back 64 kilometers on the road towards Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in no doubt that Kyiv remains Russia’s “key target,” insisting in a video published late on Monday that he and fellow Ukrainians remain intent on holding the city.
“We did not let them break the defense of the capital, and they send saboteurs to us… We will neutralize them all,” Zelensky vowed to the camera, in a fierce warning to Russia’s army.
Heavy Russian casualties in first week of conflict
Russia has already suffered significant casualties in the opening week of the conflict, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, with Russian casualties reaching 5,710 as of 9:00 (EET) on March 1. In other stats published by the Kyiv Independent news outlet, 198 Russian tanks, 846 APCs and 29 jets have been destroyed by Ukrainian anti-tank missiles and counter-air defenses, much of which has been provided by NATO allies.
Russia denies that it has suffered such casualties. Independent confirmation cannot be obtained at this time.
Zelensky has reportedly asked U.S. President Joe Biden to implement a no-fly zone policy over Ukraine, a request that has been denied by the White House, with Biden’s Press Secretary Jen Psaki ruling out the move in an address to reporters on Monday.
“A no-fly zone would require implementation. It would require deploying the U.S. military to enforce, which would be a direct conflict, potentially direct conflict and potentially war with Russia, which is something we are not planning to be a part of,” Psaki told journalists.
International condemnation hits home for Russians
Meanwhile, further government sanctions and individual corporate boycotts of Russia continue, piling more misery and economic uncertainty on Russian citizens.
The Russian central bank raised its interest rates to 20 percent on Monday, making many Russian families attempting to repay a mortgage on variable rates almost impossible. The country’s stock exchange remains closed over fears of mass selling of shares and there are numerous reports of concerns on a run of the banks as many citizens seek to withdraw their savings and convert them to the more stable U.S. dollar.
Football’s world governing body FIFA announced on Monday that Russia will be prevented from participating in the forthcoming men’s World Cup in Qatar this winter, and UEFA will ban the Russian women’s side from taking part in European Championships scheduled for July.
Furthermore, Disney announced on Monday that its films will no longer be distributed in Russia, and U.S. multinational Mastercard has suspend its services in the country.
But perhaps even more concerning for the Russian population is Maersk’s announcement on Tuesday that it would be suspending all shipments to Russian ports. The world’s largest container shipping line confirmed all shipments, with the exception of foods and medicines, would be canceled with immediate effect.