While Russian advances in Ukraine largely remain stalled after 12 days of war, the humanitarian crisis continues to grow, Ukrainian officials say.
“In western Ukraine there is a huge problem with a huge number of migrants and people are starving and cold,” a Ukrainian official told Military Times Monday morning by written message. “There is a humanitarian catastrophe!! Children under 1 year old are dying of pneumonia. We still have winter. and we are already thinking that the catastrophe in Ukraine will lead to a catastrophe in the world with food because Ukraine was a major supplier of wheat and grain.”
The Associated Press reports that nearly two million people have fled Ukraine, most heading to Poland.
Well into the second week of war, Russia’s plan to quickly overrun the country has been stymied by fierce resistance, the Associated Press reports. Its troops have made significant advances in southern Ukraine and along the coast, but many of its efforts have become stalled, including an immense military convoy that has been almost motionless for days north of Kyiv.
Though Russia has now committed about 95% of the combat power it amassed along Ukraine’s borders, the Pentagon has seen “limited changes on the ground” while the airspace remains contested, a senior U.S. defense official said Sunday evening.
After 11 days of war, “Russian forces’ continued efforts to advance and isolate Kyiv, Kharkiv and Chernihiv across the north and east are being met with strong Ukrainian resistance,” the official said, in an email to reporters.
“There does not appear to be any significant movement along the Russian axes,” the official said. “Leading elements remain outside these city centers. We cannot give specific distances today.”
The long convoy of Russian troops and vehicles headed south to Kyiv “continues to be stalled,” the official said, offering details on the condition of anonymity.
Fighting continues in the south, near the cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv, the official added.
Ukrainian forces continue to strike the long Russian convoy heading south toward Kyiv, Ukraine Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of that nation’s defense intelligence agency, told Military Times Monday morning.
The Russian embassy in Washington D.C. did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday morning.
Russia is concentrating its main efforts on the encirclement of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernigov, Sumy, Mariupol and Nikolaev, according to a noon, local time, operational update from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine provided to Military Times.
They are trying to establish control over Chernihiv and are trying to prepare for an attack on Sumy, the update states. In addition, Russia “is trying to continue the offensive in the direction of the Dnieper using units of the tank army, two combined arms armies and an army corps,” according to the update. “The main efforts are focused on the directions of Kanev, Dnieper and Severodonetsk.”
In the direction of Donetsk, Russians — with forces of up to seven battalion tactical groups — continue offensive operations near the cities of Dnipro and Zaporozhye. Their aim is to reach the administrative borders of the Donetsk region, according to the update.
“Despite heavy losses, it is advancing in the direction of Volnovakha,” the update states. “At the same time, the enemy is trying to break through the city’s defenses in the areas west” near Mariupol, Stary Krym. “No luck.”
Backed by up to 17 battalion tactical groups in the area Russians hold the lines in the Kherson region, including up to three battalion tactical groups arrayed against Mariupol.
“The enemy is regrouping troops for a further attack on the city of Zaporozhye,” the update states.
While Russian forces have not taken action yet against Odessa, Russian force in the area are in an overestimated degree of combat readiness, the update states.
“Despite the large number of troops, the occupiers have a low moral and psychological state,” the update states. “Having suffered losses, enemy units lose their offensive potential and surrender en masse.”
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.