It appears Ukrainians defending Kyiv are holding out in part thanks to the ongoing flooding of the Irpin River. Russian forces have had a difficult enough time taking ground in Ukraine, and moving an army through standing water in near-freezing weather can’t help that. Meanwhile, the bombardment of Kyiv is ongoing and Russia has now thrown down an ultimatum for the surrender of Mariupol.
To get on track with the war’s status, you can find our most recent rolling coverage here. And now for the latest news from the war in Ukraine.
Update: 8:18 PM EST—
Kyiv was hit again tonight, with one of the strikes being particularly large and violent. Supposedly it centered around a shopping mall area:
More on Mariupol's surrender below. It does not look good.
Update: 4:40 PM EST—
Not good. It looks like Russia is giving an ultimatum to Ukraine on surrendering Mariupol. It is unlikely Ukraine will agree to this or the citizens left in Mariupol will either as there has been a lot of talk of citizens being shipped off to Russia. Checkpoints looking for tattoos that could identify fighters on younger men have also been a thing. The big question is what would come after this ultimatum? There have been worries that Russia would use unconventional means to sack the city as intense fighting has been going on there for weeks. Also, in the past, humanitarian corridors have been bombed and shelled, leaving very little trust in anything Russia proposes. The city is just ruined. Russian artillery has turned it into ruins.
Update: 3:40 PM EST—
One of the stooges Russia has recently installed in occupied Kherson has been gunned down by Ukrainian fighters:
Posted: 2:15 PM EST—
The Irpin River's natural confluence with the Dneper is below the Kyiv Reservoir water level, meaning the river only flows if water is pumped up into the reservoir. The locks and pumps at the reservoir's edge were reportedly destroyed and are now occupied by Russian forces, leading the river to slowly back up and flood against the reservoir. The flooding may help defenders in Kyiv keep Russian forces at bay, but it is also an increasingly horrific problem for civilians still trapped in the area.
Apart from the obvious limitations on movement, that much water where it doesn’t belong creates a lot of mud and saturated ground for an invader to deal with. Russian commanders have to either risk swamping vehicles or create their own vulnerable chokepoints with pontoon bridges.
The Russians’ favored PMP pontoon bridges were an early and frequent target for Ukrainian troops. For instance, this one near the heavily Kyiv suburb of Hostomel has been built and destroyed a number of times:
A note on those Russian convoys, they’re still primary targets for the Ukrainians. Some new videos Saturday show engagements around Ukraine, and the end results are not good for the Russian truck drivers.
One ambush that’s documented on video, however, showed potentially a new element of these attacks. It appears the Ukrainians put explosives along the road and set them off before opening up with small arms from cover. These types of ambushes were the scourage of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and will likely become more prominent as the invasion grinds on and the skillset to set them up spreads. Even if purpose-built mines or other specialized explosive devices were used, we will likely see this tactic proliferate. Many of Russia's vehicles are especially vulnerable to these types of attacks.
Latest control map and intel assessment from the UK MoD:
It would appear no one reading this is luckier than this separatist tank crew with a near miss.
This tank crew was not so lucky. You can see the turret coming back to earth after being blown well above the burning wreckage.
There’s also imagery to show Ukrainian forces managed to take out a Russian T-80UM2 tank despite its “Drozd” active protection system near Sumy in Northeast Ukraine.
You can read about our coverage on active protection systems and the Drozd’s unique danger to the supporting infantry likely necessary to guard the tank here.
On the subject of tank hunting, we’ve got a pair of systems, old and new, documented on the frontlines. First, there’s footage of Ukrainian troops using Javelin missiles at the frontline, though the rather casual nature of those around the shooter makes us think this is not in immediate contact, and more likely finishing off a knocked out vehicle or that these types of engagements have become so normal that Ukrainian troops just aren't that phased by it. The standoff nature of Javelin and the limited capabilities of some Russian fighting vehicles could also be a major factor here.
You can read some of our coverage about the Javelin missile here.
And on the other end of the technology spectrum, there’s this anti-tank gun looking over a road. It looks like a D-30 artillery piece used in a direct fire role, its 122mm cannon likely more than enough to really ruin a tank or APC crew’s day.
In the ongoing siege of Mariupol, there’s evidence of new Russian assets committed to the fight there. Satellite imagery reportedly shows a pair of Russian corvettes moving in off the coast to provide fire support to Russian and separatist troops trying to take the city.
In the city itself, it is still a hellish war zone for all involved. There isn’t much room to fight in a city, and as such fewer places for civilians to get out of the way. This could be the future for other Ukrainian cities should the Russian offensive regain momentum.
There’s also new video from separatist forces showing the TOS-1A thermobaric rocket launcher in action. It appears to show crews loading the launcher vehicle before it sets up to fire, reportedly on Mariupol.
Here’s our previous story on the TOS-1A’s deployment to Ukraine.
The Russian objective of air superiority reportedly remains elusive for the Russian Air Force, but tweets show some interesting activity in Belarus. First, there’s both video and imagery of Russian Su-35s on the ramp and flying night ops in Belarus.
There are also these images showing an Su-35 loaded up for a suppression of enemy air defenses mission. Pictures clearly show electronic countermeasures pods on wingtip pylons, R-73 “Archer” and R-77 “Adder” air-to-air missiles, and a pair of Kh-31P “Krypton” anti-radar missiles.
Alongside these Su-35 spots, observers noted a rare Il-22PP electronic warfare aircraft over Belarus. Conventional wisdom suggests the jammers would support SEAD and other offensive operations over Ukraine, but given continued struggles, we don’t know if that’s happening as designed.
We wrote about how Russian air strategy could evolve, including the use of the Il-22PP in standoff jamming, as the war goes on here.
Also in Belarus, Russian troops have deployed Forpost-R armed drones to the civilian Gomel Airport. These are license-built versions of the IAI Searcher drones built by Israel, and video reportedly shows them striking Ukrainian targets.
Deploying armed drones like the Forpost to Gomel perhaps shows Russia is attempting to minimize its ground attack fighters’ exposure to Ukrainian air defenses while expanding situational awareness in the area. Stepped-up Forpost operations may prove to develop into a similar threat as the Ukrainian's TB-2 poses to Russian forces.
Back on the front north of Kyiv, the New York Times got the frightening backstory to that widely seen image of Russian troops stuck in a building’s elevator. It turns out they effectively took the apartment building and its residents hostage as documented in this Twitter thread here.
We will continue to update this section with more information until we state otherwise.
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