Ukraine Situation Report | 18 March 2022
Since our last update on Monday, the Russian military has continued to target civilian populations in towns and cities across Ukraine using heavy artillery and airstrikes. The ground offensive has made little progress, despite claims from Russian President Vladimir Putin that the operation was “going to plan” almost four weeks in. There has also been no significant progress in peace talks, while Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made further appeals to Western governments for additional support. In an address to the US Congress, he invoked the Pearl Harbour and 9/11 attacks, saying that his country needs the US “right now.” The US government has announced an additional $800m in security assistance, which includes anti-aircraft systems and anti-tank weapons. During a speech to the German Bundestag on Thursday morning, he called on the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to “stop dithering” and do more to help.
One of the most significant developments this week was the Russian attack on a theatre in the besieged south-eastern city of Mariupol. More than 1,000 people were reportedly sheltering inside the building when it was targeted on Wednesday, despite the fact that the Russian word for ‘children’ had been written in large letters outside. Rescue operations are ongoing at the site, but many of those sheltering inside managed to have survived the attack. US President Joe Biden labelled his Russian counterpart a war criminal over the attack, a remark that the Kremlin denounced as "unforgivable". The Russian ambassador to the UN has denied any Russian involvement in the strike and said that his country was fighting an “information war.”
Residential areas on the outskirts of Kyiv have been targeted in further Russian strikes this week. A factory and nearby station were hit in a missile strike, while another attack targeted a residential building and destroyed a bus. At least one person was killed by a Russian missile on Thursday morning. Ground troops have stalled outside the capital in the north-western suburbs of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel. Inside the city, patrols have been increased and checkpoints are being used to identify potential Russian infiltrators. Further north, at least 50 people were killed by Russian shelling in the city of Chernihiv earlier this week, according to Vyacheslav Chaus, the head of the Chernihiv Regional State Administration. The incident came days after Russian troops were accused of shooting dead 10 people who were queuing for bread.
At least 21 people were killed and dozens more wounded after Russian shelling targeted a school and cultural centre on the outskirts of Kharkiv on Thursday. According to local officials, more than 230 civilians have been killed in the city, which was once home to 1.4m people, since the start of the Russian invasion. Despite the heavy bombardment, Ukrainian forces remain in control of the city. Elsewhere, unconfirmed reports claim that Russian troops have kidnapped the Head of the Velyky Burluk community, Viktor Tereschenko. Heavy fighting has also been reported near Pryvilya and Severodonetsk in the Luhansk Oblast.
On Friday morning several missiles hit a building next to the airport in the western city of Lviv, close to the border with Poland. The local mayor, Andriy Sadovy, said an aircraft repair plant was targeted by cruise missiles, while the Ukrainian air force said two further Russian missiles were destroyed by anti-aircraft defences. There have been no immediate reports of casualties. Meanwhile, refugees continue to head west into Poland, with the country's main cities increasingly overwhelmed by the large influx of people. More than 1.8m Ukrainians have fled across the western border into Poland, while more than a million others have crossed into other neighbouring countries.
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