The Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine has now into its eighth day. The Russian military continues to face stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces units, as well as protests and civil disobedience from average civilians, but it has also made some gains. While its massive convoy north of Kyiv is stalled, it looks like a beach landing in the southern seaside city of Odessa may be imminent. Before getting into the latest news below, you can first get up to speed on previous developments in the conflict in our earlier rolling coverage here.
UPDATED: 8:00 AM EST—
The demise of the mighty An-225 super-heavy airlifter, which had been feared in previous days, appears now to have been confirmed beyond doubt. Footage that appeared today on social media shows apparent wreckage of the airlifter — including the nose, one of the port engines, and possibly the tail fin — burning in the aircraft's hangar at Gostomel Airport, which came under fierce Russian attack earlier in the campaign. The video is thought to have been made sometime during February 26-27.
Manufacturer Antonov, which also operated Gostomel Airport, had previously indicated that it required further information before making a determination on the final fate of the aircraft. In a tweet today, the company seems to hint that the sole An-225 has, indeed, been written off.
Meanwhile, losses of military aircraft in the fighting continue, with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense confirming the loss of another Su-27 Flanker fighter jet in the campaign, although it's unclear when. The pilot of the jet, Maj. Stepan Choban, was killed although during the battle he reportedly "distracted enemy aircraft" over Kropyvnytskyi, in central Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has now signed a decree awarding Choban the title of Hero of Ukraine. The announcement follows previous news of the death of another Ukrainian Su-27 pilot, Col. Oleksandr Oksanchenko, which you can read about here.
Evidence of what appears to be another Russian aircraft loss over Ukraine has also emerged, although so far it's not possible to confidently identify the aircraft in question, while the date and location of the incident are also unclear. What we can see beyond doubt are a flying boot, part of a helmet, and a fragment of the aircraft with the insignia of the Russian Aerospace Forces.
Unconfirmed reports claim that a Russian Su-34 Fullback strike aircraft was downed near Volnovakha in Donetsk Oblast earlier today and there has been speculation that the above wreckage might be from an aircraft of this type:
Elsewhere, Russian airpower appears to be involved in attacks that are also causing substantial destruction in civilian areas of Ukraine. According to the governor of the Chernihiv region, Viacheslav Chaus, a Russian airstrike today killed at least nine people and wounded four more. The raid apparently hit two schools as well as private houses.
UPDATED: 4:20 AM EST—
Eight Russian amphibious landing ships have been filmed sitting right off the western shore of Crimea. These likely include some of those we tracked from the Baltic Sea leading up to the invasion. Clearly, this is an ominous sign. Many think Odessa will be their destination:
There are unconfirmed reports that Ukraine's armed forces have mined the beaches at Odessa in advance of what seems to be an impending beach assault.
The latest UK general intel assessment:
The mechanized massive column north of Kyiv has become a tactical oddity. Thick mud off-road has made moving off paved surfaces very treacherous. The fact that Ukrainians are going out to engage the convoy (or should we call it a linear encampment now?) is telling. A source told The War Zone today that it has become Moscow's "great vehicular bucket line of a logistical mess." That's isn't to say that its very existence isn't highly troubling, but the longer it stays static the more risk it will be of creating its own terrible logistical and tactical issues. Fuel, for one, could become a major concern.
Ukraine is being flooded with shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles/MANPADS and anti-tank missiles/weapons:
More on Russia's breaching of Swedish airspace earlier today:
Ukraine now confirms Kherson has fallen:
There was an uptick in strikes on Kyiv overnight:
Ukraine SOF with Russian vehicles:
The damage being inflicted on these cities is quickly becoming astonishing:
POSTED: 7:10 PM EST—
Though the strategic southern Ukrainian city of Kherson remained contested on Wednesday, its government now appears to have capitulated to invading Russian forces. The New York Times' Michael Schwirtz says that Mayor Igor Kolykhaev told him that he had met with a Russian commander in the area who planned to establish military occupation administration.
“I simply asked them not to shoot at people,” the Kherson Mayor had said in a statement, according to the AP. “We don’t have any Ukrainian forces in the city, only civilians and people here who want to LIVE.”
Kolykhaev had earlier said that his city, which is located in a highly strategic position on the northern bank of the Dnieper River, was surrounded and that Russian troops were seizing control of buildings. Russian forces were also observed in the city earlier in the day apparently looting stores, possibly for supplies. There have been consistent reports that the Kremlin's invasion force, as a whole, has been suffering from significant supply chain problems, including when it comes to food and fuel.
With those logistical difficulties in mind, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has now called upon all Ukrainians to try to destroy Russian logistics convoys to hamper the Kremlin's invasion plans.
The mayor of Ukraine's port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the Sea of Azov north of the Black Sea, has said the situation there is increasingly dire. Russian forces have it encircled and have been subjecting it to regular artillery bombardment and other attacks. Taking Mariupol will help solidify the Kremlin's gains in this area, which are key to fully securing a landbridge between western Russia and occupied Crimea.
The U.S. military says that it has delivered hundreds of Stinger shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, also known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) to its Ukrainian counterparts in recent days, including a shipment of 200 just on Monday. Stingers and other MANPADS being sent to Ukraine from various countries are essential for helping the country's military to continue to contest the skies overhead. As of Wednesday, the Pentagon assessed that Russian forces had still not achieved air superiority in support of their invasion.
Spain has now joined a growing number of countries that plan to send weapons and other military aid to Ukraine. The Spanish government currently plans to send a shipment of machine guns, grenade launchers, and ammunition.
The Russian government, which has been facing increasing criticism over its invasion and the tactics it has been employing, including indiscriminate strikes on cities that may constitute war crimes, says that it is preparing to send humanitarian aid convoys to Ukraine.
The Pentagon says it has postponed a scheduled test launch of an unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in order to avoid doing anything that could "be misunderstood or misconstrued" by the Kremlin in light of current tensions. U.S. military officials have consistently said that they have not observed any significant changes to Russia's strategic force posture since President Vladimir Putin ordered them to adopt a state of heightened alert this weekend. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that delaying this launch, which is a routine test done to demonstrate the functionality and reliability of the Minuteman III system, is prudent and does not diminish America's nuclear deterrent capabilities.
Sweden says that two Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jets and a pair of Su-24 Fencer swing-wing combat jets violated its airspace in the Baltic Sea today. Though not directly related to the conflict in Ukraine, the incident underscores the broad uptick in regional tensions.
A luxury yacht belonging to Alisher Usmanov, a Russian oligarch, was reportedly seized in Germany for unspecified reasons. Forbes reported that this was likely related to the freezing of Usmanov's assets under new sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org