Russia may be focusing on seizing the Donbas region • Casualties continue to climb
A geiger counter measures a radiation level at a site of fire burning in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, outside the village of Rahivka.
(photo credit: YAROSLAV YEMELIANENKO/REUTERS)
Some 24,700 acres of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone were on fire on Sunday. Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Lyudmyla Denisova said that these fires could potentially spread radionuclides to Belarus and the rest of Europe, spreading the radiation.
The next round of talks will be held in Turkey on March 28-30, David Braun, a member of the delegation, announced on Facebook.
Russia targets Ukrainian fuel, food
Russia has started destroying Ukrainian fuel and food storage depots, meaning the government will have to disperse the stocks of both in the near future, Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said on Sunday.
“Russian air and missile forces continue to strike targets across Ukraine including many targets in densely populated civilian areas,” according to an early Sunday morning UK Defense Ministry intelligence update.
“Russia continues to rely on ‘stand-off’ munitions launched from within Russian airspace, in order to reduce their aircrafts’ exposure to Ukrainian air defense forces. US reporting of up to 60% failure rates of these weapons will compound Russia’s problem of increasingly limited stocks forcing them to revert to less sophisticated missiles or accepting more risk to their aircraft.”
Over Saturday, Russia claimed that it had struck 67 Ukrainian military sites, including two command posts, 23 arsenals and 11 barracks.
Russia struck military targets in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv with high-precision cruise missiles, the Russian defense ministry said on Sunday, and Russian state media outlet TASS said the military used sea-based missiles to allegedly strike missile storage sites for anti-air systems near Kyiv, Over Saturday night, Ukrainian ammunition and weapons warehouses were destroyed by Russian warplanes by firing air-to-ground missiles, TASS reported.
Battlelines largely remained stagnant across northern Ukraine on Sunday, with some minor gains by both parties.
“Russian forces appear to be concentrating their effort to attempt the encirclement of Ukrainian forces directly facing the separatist regions in the east of the country, advancing from the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south,” The UK Defense Ministry said in a late Sunday morning intelligence update.
On Friday, a defense official told US Defense Department News that Russia was reprioritizing its efforts away from a ground offensive to seize Kyiv and to instead secure holding in the separatist Donbas region.
“They are putting their priorities and their efforts in the east of Ukraine,” the DOD official said. “That’s where still there remains a lot of heavy fighting and we think they are trying to not only secure some sort of more substantial gains there as a potential negotiating tactic at the table, but also to cut off Ukrainian forces in the eastern part of the country.”
On fronts near the rebel Donbas region, Ukraine has claimed over Saturday night to have defeated a grouping and destroyed eight tanks and eight armored vehicles. They also claimed to have shot down one plane and 12 drones.
Speaking on local television, Denysenko also said Russia was bringing forces to the Ukrainian border on rotation and could make new attempts to advance in its invasion of Ukraine.
On Sunday morning, Ukraine’s military claimed that Russia had lost almost 16,600 soldiers since the beginning of the war, but Western intelligence estimates put Russian losses at about half of Ukraine’s tally. Ukraine said that Russia had lost 582 tanks, 1664 armored vehicles, 294 artillery pieces, 93 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), 52 anti-aircraft systems, 121 warplanes, 127 helicopters, 1144 other ground vehicles, seven ships, 73 fuel tankers, and 56 drones. Open-source intelligence group Oryx, which has been documenting war losses with visual media verification, has identified hundreds of Russian vehicles destroyed, damaged or captured, including 300 tanks, 218 armored fighting vehicles, 294 infantry fighting vehicles, 76 armored personnel carriers, 12 mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, 65 infantry mobility vehicles, 60 engineering items, 98 artillery pieces, 33 MLRS, 11 Anti-aircraft systems, 40 surface-to-air systems, 621 other ground vehicles, 16 warplanes, 35 helicopters and 3 ships.
The Russian military claimed that since the beginning of the war, Ukraine had lost 289 drones, 1656 tanks and other armored vehicles, 169 MLRS, 684 artillery pieces, and 1,503 other ground vehicles, TASS reported.
Oryx identified that Ukraine had lost 79 tanks, 59 armored fighting vehicles, 60 infantry fighting vehicles, 29 armored personnel carriers, 32 infantry mobility vehicles, 7 engineering vehicles, 37 artillery pieces, 6 MLRS, 3 anti-aircraft systems, 21 surface-to-air systems, 12 warplanes, 1 helicopter, 9 drones, 13 ships and 180 other ground vehicles.
Ukraine’s armed forces also claimed on Sunday that 50 to 100 injured Russian and pro-Russian personnel were being sent to Sevastapol for treatment daily, a Sunday morning operational assessment said. The armed rebel group People’s Militia of the Lugansk People’s Republic claimed on Sunday that Ukrainian forces were averaging losses of 40 soldiers a day in their operational area, TASS reported.
Ukraine and Russia have agreed two humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from frontline areas on Sunday, including allowing people to leave by private car from the cities of Mariupol and Rubizhne, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. There would also be buses provided.
“We are working on other routes. I hear all your appeals. We are doing everything possible to stop the occupiers from firing, allowing people to get out of basements, bomb shelters and passing a humanitarian convoy,” said Vereshchuk in a Sunday morning statement.
Some 30,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in France, with half of them traveling through the country to other places such as Spain, French housing minister Emmanuelle Wargon said Sunday.
Wargon told Franceinfo radio the government was preparing to welcome 100,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine.
France has been granting temporary European Union stay permits to Ukrainian refugees, which allows them to have access to schools and to work in the country.
Before the war, the Ukrainian community in France numbered 40,000.