Russia invades Ukraine, Mariupol attacked from Sea of Azov

A view of a residential building destroyed by a Russian shelling attack in Makariv, on March 16.
A view of a residential building destroyed by a Russian shelling attack in Makariv, on March 16. (Mohammad Javad Abjoushak/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Ukrainian forces have been trying in the last few days to regain territory from the Russians, according to a senior US defense official, who described them as “able and willing” to do so.

Here’s the situation on the ground:

Counterattacks near the capital: A Ukrainian counterattack north and west of Kyiv appeared to have made some headway, jeopardizing Russian efforts to encircle the capital and threatening the ability of Russian forces to resupply the forward units that are exposed to the north of the city.

Makariv: One such area is Makariv, a strategic town 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Kyiv. After days of fighting, Ukrainian forces regained control of the town, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a Facebook post Tuesday. CNN could not confirm the claim. Makariv had sustained significant damage from ongoing Russian airstrikes, with video showing widespread devastation. If Ukrainian forces consolidate their control of Makariv, it would become more difficult for Russian forces to secure the western approaches to Kyiv and then push further south.

North of Kyiv: There are also indications that Russian forces have suffered setbacks to the north of Kyiv in areas they have held almost since the beginning of the invasion. A brief video geolocated by CNN showed Ukrainian troops walking in the town of Moschun, about 20 miles (35 kilometers) north of the capital. Ukrainian drone video geolocated during the weekend showed the destruction of Russian armor in the same area.

Flooding of Irpin River: Satellite images from Monday showed growing flooding from the Irpin River. CNN previously reported that a dam along the Dnieper River was flooding the Irpin River basin and its tributaries. The river is critical to the Russian advance toward Kyiv; if the Russians cannot cross it, they can’t take Kyiv from the west. It’s unclear how the dam began flooding: whether the gates were opened on purpose by the Ukrainians, or it was hit by a military strike.

Borodyanka: Some 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of Makariv is the town of Borodyanka, which has been held by Russian and Chechen forces since early in the campaign. If the Ukrainians were to take Borodyanka, forward Russian units could be cut off. The battlefield is fluid, and the Russians could reverse recent losses. But if the Ukrainians hold Makariv and extend their control over the area, Russian positions between the town and Kyiv would become vulnerable, further impeding their goal of pushing south beyond the main east-west highway to encircle the capital.

Kherson and Mykolaiv: TO senior US defense official said Ukrainians are fighting to take back the southern city of Kherson, as well as pushing Russian forces from the northeast of Mykolaiv, forcing them to reposition south of the city. The official cautioned that the US cannot say whether these moves are part of a “larger operational plan” by the Ukrainians or not, but called the Ukrainian defense “nimble” and “agile.”

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