Good evening. This is your Russia-Ukraine War Briefing, a weeknight guide to the latest news and analysis about the conflict.
A stalled Russian convoy northwest of Kyiv has pulled off the road into nearby woods to avoid being attacked by Ukrainian forces, according to a senior Pentagon official.
Despite the convoy’s setbacks, Russian forces continued to bear down on Kyiv, with one column about nine miles from the city center, and another between 12 and 19 miles away.
The U.S., the E.U. and other allies will strip Russia of normal trade relations and take other steps to expand sanctions, President Biden said.
These maps show Russian troop movements and Ukrainian lines of resistance.
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Russia’s widening war
Missiles hit well behind Ukrainian lines today, striking three cities that until now had not sustained major attacks. The assault on Dnipro, in central Ukraine, and on Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, in the west, suggested that Russia was widening its attacks on cities as the invasion entered its third week.
The primary target for Russia remains the capital, Kyiv. Satellite imagery of a miles-long convoy north of the city indicates that Russia is repositioning its forces for a renewed assault there. Images from multiple satellites also showed family homes burning today in the town of Moshchun, about five miles north of Kyiv.
Despite setbacks in the invasion’s first two weeks, Russian forces are still capable of encircling Kyiv in one to two weeks, a U.S. official said, though the battle for the Ukrainian capital could take a month or more.
Russian forces continued to pummel Mariupol in the south. Ukrainian officials said the death toll in that city had reached 1,552, but an adviser to the city’s mayor warned that constant bombing had made it impossible to count the dead
In the southern port of Mykolaiv, Russian forces hit a cafe, a home and the parking lot of a large shopping center, according to the regional governor.
As Russia has shifted toward widespread shelling and bombing of civilian neighborhoods, scores of historic buildings, artworks and public squares are being reduced to rubble.
Ukraine’s drones punch above their weight
Pentagon officials are puzzled by Russia’s failure to dominate the skies over Ukraine. Moscow has sophisticated missile defenses and air power on Ukraine’s borders, but it has not been using them effectively to support its ground forces or take out Ukraine’s air forces, U.S. officials and analysts said.
Ukraine’s persistence has allowed it to use its small fleet of Turkish-made drones to devastating effect, carrying out several attacks on the huge Russian military convoys making their way toward Kyiv.
The Bayraktar TB2 drones are assembled in Turkey with electronics made in the U.S. and Canada. They are slow, low-flying and completely defenseless. Still, they have earned a reputation for punching above their weight.
Russia-Ukraine War: Key Things to Know
On the ground. Russian forces, battered by the local resistance, have stepped up their bombardment across Ukraine, targeting locations far from the front lines. Satellite imagery of a convoy north of Kyiv suggests that Russia is repositioning its forces for a renewed assault there.
At the start of the war, Ukraine had between five and 20 TB2s in service. Russia claims to have shot down several of them, and it is unclear how many are left. But video footage is still popping up to show the drones destroying Russian military hardware.
Ukrainians are now singing songs about the Bayraktar, and have even named a lemur, born last week at the Kyiv Zoo, after the drone.
Experts say Russia could still establish the air superiority that it fumbled at the start. In that case, the drones — which have no self-defense systems, cruise at only about 80 miles an hour and are easily spotted by radar — would be sitting ducks.