After a fast-paced start and a period of consolidation, Russia looks to be moving to a phase of “state-sponsored terrorism” with attacks on civilian areas of major cities.
The advance started aggressively. Russia entered with quick-moving but lightly-armoured units aiming to overwhelm key targets with little opposition.
As the animated map below shows, Russian troops made significant initial progress both in the south, from Crimea, and the north around the capital, Kyiv, but the advance has since slowed.
Next, Russia tried to encircle and isolate key cities like Kharkiv, Kyiv and Sumy, in the north and east.
And it also tried to create a “land-bridge” in the south from the separatist Donbas regions by the Russian border, all the way along the Black Sea coast to Odesa, via Mariupol, Melitopol, Kherson and Mykolaiv.
So far, Russian forces haven’t been able to encircle Kyiv, or take Mariupol, and are still 120 miles from Odesa.
Sky News defence expert Air Marshall Edward Stringer says the next phase appears to be effectively “state-sponsored terrorism” with Russia attacking civilian areas, hoping to force Ukraine and President Zelenskyy to submit to its political demands.
The battle for Kyiv
For most of the first two weeks of this conflict, there has been little action within the capital city of Kyiv itself.
There were attacks on sites like the TV tower, but in recent days there has been shelling of suburban areas in what appears to be the start of a strategic move to encircle the city.
This satellite image shows the aftermath of one of these shellings of a suburban residential area, Moschun, taken on Friday.
Image: Buildings were seen burning and bombed out in a civilian area near Kyiv, Moschun, on Friday 11 March. Pic: Maxar
Hostomel airport, nearby, has been an important battleground from the start of the invasion. It was also pictured burning in satellite images from Maxar on Friday.
Image: Satellite images of buildings at Hostomel airport, near Kyiv, on fire on Friday. Pic: Maxar
A key storyline in the battle for Kyiv was an armoured convoy of Russian military vehicles. Satellite images over several days watched it grow, first from three miles long, then 17. Soon after it occupied a stretch of road 40 miles long.
It seemed to stall – it didn’t move for nearly a week, until yesterday. New satellite images showed the convoy finally starting to fan out and surround more of the city.
Image: Russian hardware is moving to different positions around Kyiv, including what appear to be rocket launchers in Berestyanka. Pic: Maxar
Air Marshal Stringer says this slow progress of the convoy, and the reported deaths of three generals, are bad signs for Russia.
“Generals shouldn’t be on the frontline. If things are going well they will stay at the back. When things aren’t going well, when things have stalled, they go there to find out why and they are vulnerable.”
“It is very unusual in modern or even historical warfare for this many senior generals to have died.”
He adds that the reasons that things haven’t been going so well are likely a combination of poorly trained and equipped Russian forces, and a lack of morale.
“Russia has spent a lot of money on its military in the last 15 years but mainly on peacetime products like submarines.
“They have grunty, conscript forces who are poorly trained for ground combat and poorly equipped. They are looking for excuses to say ‘we’re held up here’ which are forcing the generals to come forward and find out why their objectives aren’t being met.”
The bombing of civilian areas
Russia has bombed civilian areas in several cities around different parts of the country, leading to accusations of war crimes.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, close to the border with Russia, was shelled relentlessly during the first week, as was nearby Sumy.
Russia has blockaded and bombarded Mariupol, in the south, for most of the last two weeks, but has yet to take control.
During that time they have hit a number of civilian buildings, like a shopping centre, apartment buildings and on Saturday, a mosque.
Russia has denied hitting civilian targets, but one of the most shocking bombings was that of a maternity and children’s hospital on Thursday.
Children in the city have died of dehydration and there have been reports of people trying to drink snow as Russia starves residents of resources to try and establish control.
Electricity and gas has been shut off at times, and there have been attempts to limit access to the internet.
The mayor of Melitopol, a city between Mariupol and Crimea, was kidnapped on Saturday morning.
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Moment mayor of Melitopol ‘abducted’
There have been protests about that, and there have been other demonstrations in southern cities which have fallen to Russian control, like Kherson, to the east of Crimea.
Mariupol was one of six places in which Russia agreed to create ‘humanitarian corridors’ and hold ceasefires to evacuate civilians from areas of fighting.
But none of these routes led to neighbouring countries who are in support of Ukraine. They led to either cities in Belarus or Russia, or to other cities in Ukraine.
Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said Moscow had “largely failed” to adhere to ceasefire agreements. Routes had to be halted after Russian shelling made them unsafe.
There was some success on Tuesday, as 7,000 people managed to leave Sumy. These were the routes leading out of the country which were established by Russia, with the areas of control as they were at the time.
Poland has taken in more than one-and-a-half million refugees from Ukraine so far, according to the UN. More than two-and-a-half million people have escaped from Ukraine to other countries in total.
As of Friday evening the UK had granted just over 1,300 visas to Ukrainian refugees, according to the Home Office.
Image: Countries near to Ukraine have taken in more than two million refugees since the invasion began
What’s coming next?
Seventeen days in, this is the state of play. This map shows the latest areas of Russian control and advance.
In the last few days there has been a shift of activity towards bombing civilian areas. Ivano-Franskivsk and Lutsk in the west were struck on Friday.
There are three main strategic targets – Kyiv, the political centre; Odesa, a vital port and economic hub; and Dnipro, in the centre of the country where Russian forces from the south and north will be able to come together.
But Air Marshal Stringer says these might be beyond Russia’s capabilities.
“It’s very difficult to take a city and Russia is already at its elastic limit. They have 200,000 troops and they’ve already lost 10,000 and three generals.
“Odesa is a city of more than a million people, and it’s 120 miles from where they are now.
“Taking Kyiv would require a 56-mile ring of Russian forces which would need to be kept supplied. Russia hasn’t even been able to take Mariupol or Kharkiv.”
“All that’s left is for Russia to roll out more firepower, and destroy critical national and cultural infrastructure as they did in Chechnya, and cause a massive refugee crisis.
“There will be the odd armoured thrust to see what they can get, but the Ukrainians are getting quite good at repelling those.
“They will shell anything of value and be hoping that Ukraine will make a peace deal to save its people.”
What’s happened so far?
– Day 1: Russia launches full-scale invasion- Day 2: Russian forces reach Kyiv- Day 3: Ukraine fights back in Kyiv, Russia gain in the south- Day 4: Kyiv holds strong, heavy fighting in Kharkiv- Day 5: Convoy grows around Kyiv as refugees flee- Day 6: Cluster bombs hit Kharkiv- Day 7: Civilian casualties mount- Day 8: Mariupol is isolated as Russian forces create land bridge- Day 9: Russian forces target Europe’s largest nuclear power plant- Day 10: Ceasefire violated in Mariupol as bombing continues- Day 11: Russia prepares Kyiv for advance and how energy could be a key battle- Day 12: More humanitarian routes opened as bombing continues in Kyiv suburbs- Day 13: Civilians successfully evacuated – but has Russian advance stalled?- Day 14: Children’s hospital bombed, civilian evacuations continue and acts of defiance- Day 15: Shelling of besieged cities continues as Russian armoured column ambushed- Day 16: Kyiv “a fortress” as Russia extends bombing to western cities
Sky News is using daily assessments published by the Institute for the Study of War and AEI’s Critical Threats Project to indicate which parts of Ukraine are under control by Russian troops.
From 2 March, these daily assessments distinguished between areas of Ukraine controlled by Russia and areas of assessed Russian advances (where Russian troops are believed to be operating but not in control).
Other sources for Russian advances include the UK Ministry of Defence.
Sky News is verifying all social media videos and stills before use.
The War in Ukraine is a rapidly developing story. While we endeavour to keep all our data and maps up to date, there might be times when the latest changes have not yet been reflected in the maps.
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