The Russian President has returned to “the old routine” after a botched attempt to swiftly seize Ukraine. UK and US intelligence has found Russian troops have made “slow progress” in their attempt to capture capital Kyiv and install a puppet government. As fighting tips into the second week, Russia continues to suffer heavy losses, including the deaths of more than 11,000 military personnel and more than 860 pieces of significant equipment – including tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery pieces.
Reflecting on the invasion so far, defence analyst Professor Michael Clarke, former director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, told Express.co.uk: “It’s been surprisingly poor. The Russians tried to do it the clever way to start with – they tried to do it the way Western forces would have done it if they’ve been so foolish as to try and that clearly went wrong within the first 48 hours.
“And so then they went back to plan A, they had started with plan B, then they went back to plan A.
“That really is back to the old routine for them, which is heavily armoured forces moving on the cities, which they expected would fall easily because they thought people would be if not sympathetic, at least indifferent.”
‘Plan B’, Professor Clarke suggested, was to use fast-moving light armour and elite forces, backed with a coordinated air campaign that supported the ground troops to encircle key elements of the opposition army and seize key targets quickly.
Other forces would simultaneously raid the capital to ‘decapitate’ the leadership.
Each of these elements were seen in the first 48 hours of the Russian invasion – all of which failed.
In two besieged cities, Kharkiv and Mariupol, more than 50 percent of the population are ethnic Russians.
For this reason, Putin likely thought it would be easy to take control in these regions.
Instead, fierce fighting has erupted in both, with the Ukrainian army putting up a rigid defence which has prevented Russia from gaining control of either.
Professor Clarke, associate director of the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute, continued: “And so they are now back in the old routine where they surround the cities and just like in Chechnya, and in Syria, in Aleppo and Idlib.
“In homes, they just bombard the civilian areas and try to pound the city in submission before their own troops and tanks move in.”
Despite claiming to only be firing on military infrastructure, Russia continues to attack civilian targets.
According to the latest statistics verified by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Thursday, 549 Ukrainian civilians had been killed in total as of March 8 – 41 of whom were children.
But OHCHR said it believed the actual figures were “considerably higher”, especially in government-controlled territory and especially in recent days.
On Wednesday, three were killed, including a six-year-old girl, in a Russian strike of a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol.
Despite these brutal attacks, Russia’s ‘plan B’ – built on sheer force and ruthless civilian attacks – will ultimately fail due to the determination of the Ukrainian people, according to Professor Clarke.
He added: “I would not be surprised if they did not make more progress than they’ve made so far.
“In a pure conventional military sense, the Russians are going to have some trouble.
“They still haven’t encircled Kyiv because the Ukrainians have slowed them down.
“And when they do get Kyiv encircled, I think they’re going to find it really very tough unless they can frighten Kyiv into surrendering and I doubt that they can.
“They’ll find it really difficult to move in on a city of four million people who are determined to fight.”