There has been rampant speculation in recent days about what the apparent pause in Russian offensive operations in Ukraine means. The Russians have made limited advances in a few important areas, but the pace of the invasion has slowed significantly. Now it is believed that Russian troops are positioning themselves for a renewed offensive that might aim to tighten the noose around Kiev and cut off the best of the Ukrainian troops in the east.
Russian invasion may be heading into new phase
Officially the attack has stalled because of ceasefire negotiations and efforts to evacuate civilians from the besieged cities, efforts which have generally had disappointing results.
Moscow knows that every day it pauses is another day for the Ukrainians to bring in new weapons from the West, so it’s very unlikely that the they would be given this breathing room if the Russians didn’t have an equally pressing need to pause the invasion.
Any military operation of this scale is bound to be a logistics nightmare, and even if claims about Russian supply line issues may be exaggerated, there are undoubtedly problems to be sorted out.
The Russians are likely replacing damaged or destroyed equipment, moving supplies to the front, and sending in fresh troops to take over from exhausted first wave units.
The pause might be frustrating for the Kremlin, but these days aren’t being completely wasted on logistics; Russian forces have been repositioning and concentrating for new advances on every front and the vital sieges continue.
The important city of Mariupol is running out of time and the Ukrainians have no force to spare which might be capable of relieving the siege. The defenders are currently only able to delay the inevitable.
Ukrainian army faces danger of encirclement
The encirclements of Kiev and Kharkov are progressing slowly but surely and a major push against the capital is expected in the coming days.
Full-scale urban warfare in the major cities could be extremely costly for the Russians, and Vladimir Putin is undoubtedly hoping to force a capitulation before risking an assault on Kiev itself.
He might still be able to accomplish that in the east, where a casual glance at any map of Russian troop movements so far will reveal the basic plan.
Russian forces are advancing from the north and south while their auxiliaries from the separatist republics maintain pressure on Ukrainian forces on the Donbass front.
The Ukrainians might have difficulty in organizing a withdrawal that doesn’t result in their being destroyed by Russian airstrikes and artillery, but if they remain in their current positions they risk being completely encircled.
This would probably mean the end of the war, but if the Russians want to pull it off they will have to move quickly once the offensive starts again, and they will have to pray that this pause has given their logistics time to catch up.