Three Weeks Into Ukraine War, Russian Invasion Has Ground to a Halt

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has stalled as the war enters its fourth week, according to analysis by Britain's Ministry of Defence (MOD).

In its latest intelligence update, the MOD said Russian forces had made "minimal progress on land, sea or air in recent days and they continue to suffer heavy losses."

"Ukrainian resistance remains staunch and well-coordinated," it said on Thursday. "The vast majority of Ukrainian territory, including all major cities, remains in Ukrainian hands."

"The Russian invasion of Ukraine has largely stalled on all fronts," it added.

This assessment reiterated the ministry's update on Wednesday, which said that Russian forces had experienced delays in "achieving their objectives."

Since President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion on February 24 as part of a "special military operation" to "demilitarize" and "de-nazify" Ukraine, the expected swift campaign hasn't materialized.

Stern Resistance

Russia's campaign has faced stern Ukrainian resistance and been hit by military blunders. Moscow has failed to control Ukrainian airspace, according to the MOD and so Russia is likely to have used more stand-off air launched weapons than planned.

This has meant that Russia is likely using "older, less precise weapons, which are less militarily effective and more likely to result in civilian casualties," the ministry said.

The U.K. also pointed to how Russian forces had been reluctant to go off-road and so have been thwarted by the destruction of bridges by Kyiv's forces.

Meanwhile, a 40-mile convoy has been paused outside the capital for days and Ukrainian forces have managed to defend its biggest cities despite the largest assault on a European state since World War II.

At the start of the month, Russian forces bombarded the second city of Kharkiv, including shelling civilian areas.

However, an assessment by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on Wednesday said that Russia will be unlikely to force the city to surrender without encircling it, which Russian forces may not be able to do.

The Russians have had more success in the south of the country where they seized the city of Kherson. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday its troops had taken control of the Kherson province, although the ISW said they had only taken parts of the northeast of the area.

On March 4, the Russian troops took over Europe's biggest nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia, while the strategic port city of Mariupol on the coast of the Sea of Azov remains under constant Russian air and artillery attacks.

On Wednesday, a theater in the city believed to be housing more than 500 civilians including children was hit by a bomb and the number of casualties isn't yet known.

Carnage in Mariupol

The ISW said the attacks on Mariupol are expected to continue, although Russian forces are unlikely to be able conduct "simultaneous attacks along multiple axes of advance."

The institute also said that Russian warships shelled areas of the Odessa region on Wednesday, but that the Russian Naval Infantry is "unlikely to conduct an unsupported amphibious landing."

Moscow has admitted that 498 of its troops had died in the conflict by March 3, but the numbers are believed to be much higher. Almost two weeks later, Ukrainian newspaper Kyiv Independent said as many as 13,500 Russian troops had been killed.

Ukraine said it killed Maj. Gen. Oleg Mityaev, which would be the fourth Russian general who has died since the invasion began.

There are reports of the desertion of Russian military vehicles and low morale among Russian troops who, when captured have spoken of their regret at being involved in a war in their neighboring country.

On Wednesday, there was hope of a diplomatic breakthrough between Kyiv and Moscow after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a neutral military status for Ukraine was being "seriously discussed."

Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for comment.

Ukrainian tank
Ukrainian tanks move on a road before an attack in the Lugansk region on February 26, 2022. Russia's invasion has halted, according to western analysts. Anatolii Stepanov/Getty Images