Russia has begun its offensive in Ukraine, starting with a series of precision strikes that crippled Ukrainian military infrastructure and decimated its air-defense capabilities before the ground offensive even got underway. The war is progressing at speeds that make the Taliban’s lighting conquest of Afghanistan look like a crawl, and it will be difficult to know just how effective the initial Russian strikes really were until the fighting is over.
Russia launches its invasion
As would be expected, the fog of war makes it difficult to get a clear picture of what is happening in Ukraine and early reports have been contradictory and chaotic.
What seems to be beyond question is that the Russian military has been making short work of most Ukrainian opposition so far, thanks in part to the success of the initial strikes.
Russian aircraft and missiles methodically destroyed Ukrainian military airfields and command centers before most of the world was even aware that the war had begun.
Civilians in major cities throughout the country were awakened by the sound of explosions, but Russia emphatically denies that its strikes are targeting the population centers themselves.
Russian airborne troops currently occupy an airport near Kiev, allowing more troops and heavy equipment to be brought in by air.
Ukrainian forces are reportedly attempting to retake the airport, which is now one of the most pressing threats facing the capital.
Ukrainian forces struggling
Elsewhere in the country, Russian troops advancing from neighboring Belarus have captured the infamous Chernobyl nuclear power plant after a brief battle with Ukrainian defenders.
Odessa, Mariupol, and Kharkiv, the other major cities in the Russians’ path, are all reported to have come under attack.
Ukrainians are claiming that they have destroyed some Russian tanks and aircraft and driven off some attacks, but it is impossible to know how many of these claims are true.
Both sides have reported that enemy troops have surrendered or defected in parts of the country. Ukrainian authorities have confirmed several dozen casualties and some civilian deaths, but actual losses for both sides are unknowable at this point.
NATO, meanwhile, has again confirmed that it will not be directly intervening in the conflict, though it has offered moral and economic support for Kiev.
Vladimir Putin says that his forces are not attempting to fully occupy Ukraine and that the offensive has limited objectives, but only the Kremlin knows when it will truly be satisfied with its progress.