Even as a missile strike on Friday hit the outskirts of Lviv, a Ukrainian city that had been spared much of the Russian assault, the latest intelligence assessments indicate that Russian forces are still struggling to capture more territory as they try to push across Ukraine.
The British defense intelligence service said on Friday that Russian forces had “made minimal progress this week,” and that Ukrainian forces around the capital, Kyiv, had continued to frustrate Russian attempts to encircle the city.
Still, Russia was continuing to bombard the capital. A large explosion from what appeared to be a cruise missile strike or aerial bombardment blew a crater into the courtyard of a residential building in Kyiv on Friday, in one of the larger strikes to hit a civilian area in the city, and left at least one dead.
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Russia’s recent territorial gains have been mostly in the south and east of the country, including in the areas around Mariupol, according to assessments by Western governments and independent analysts. Russian forces have advanced from the southern city of Kherson, which they have captured, toward Kryvyi Rih, closer to the center of Ukraine.
Russia also continued its assaults on Mariupol from the east and west on Thursday, and on Friday its Defense Ministry said that Russian forces and Russia-backed separatists were “tightening the noose” around the city. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russians were carrying out the “total destruction of civilian infrastructure, housing and livelihoods.”
The cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Sumy in the north and northeast remain encircled and subject to heavy Russian shelling, British defense intelligence said.
Ukrainian military officials insisted this week that they were mounting a fierce counterattack. Forces in Kharkiv, the second largest Ukrainian city, which has seen extensive destruction from Russian strikes since the start of the invasion, reported that they had inflicted heavy losses on a Russian rifle regiment that had besieged the city.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said that Russian forces had launched several unsuccessful attacks south of the city of Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, this week. Russian forces are likely seeking to bypass the city, the analysis said, to continue advancing toward Slovyansk, a city to the east that is controlled by Russia-backed separatists. Analysts say that one of Russia’s objectives has been to cut off Ukrainian troops that have been fighting in the east from forces in the rest of the country.
Explosions were heard in the strategically important southern city of Odessa, nestled on the Black Sea, on Friday morning. While the extent of the damage was not immediately clear, a long-feared amphibious assault on the key city has looked less likely in recent days, the Institute for the Study of War said in its assessment.
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Russia may be parceling out elements of a reserve force that would be needed in that operation, the group said, directing them instead to support ongoing assaults on Mariupol.