Russia’s attempts to conquer Donbas, the region in southeastern Ukraine that experts have dubbed a critical target in Putin’s invasion, is proving challenging, with the MoD saying: “Ukraine continues to hold Russian air assets at risk.”
But Moscow, the MoD claimed, is struggling against Ukrainian resistance.
It said: “Ukraine retains control over the majority of its airspace.
“Russia has failed to effectively destroy the Ukrainian Air Force or suppress Ukrainian air defences.”
It added: “Russian air activity is primarily focused on southern and eastern Ukraine, providing support to Russian ground forces. Russia has very limited air access to the north and west of Ukraine, limiting offensive actions to deep strikes with stand-off weapons.”
The second stage of Putin’s attacks follows a month of failed attempts by Russia to envelop the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and other major cities.
As per the MoD’s intelligence, airstrikes in the port city of Mariupol, which has seen constant bombardment since February 24, “are likely being conducted using unguided free-falling bombs”.
These weapons, the report read, “reduce Russia’s ability to effectively discriminate when conducting strikes, increasing the risk of civilian casualties”.
On Tuesday, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, announced during a visit to Moscow he was ready to fully mobilise the UN’s resources to evacuate people from the besieged city.
He said: “Thousands of civilians are in dire need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance, and many have evacuated.”
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Speaking at a news conference with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, Mr Guterres added he was concerned about reports of war crimes in Ukraine and that they required an independent investigation, but not by the UN.
His trip to the Russian capital, the first one since the start of the full-scale conflict, followed criticism that he had allowed his office to be marginalised in the crisis and undermined the UN’s authority.
After expressing understanding over Moscow’s own grievances, which he said could be addressed through the many mechanisms provided by the UN charter, he said: “There is one thing that is true and obvious, and no argument can change. We have not Ukrainian troops in the territory of the Russian Federation, but we do have Russian troops in the Ukrainian Federation.”
Lavrov said that was true.
According to Kyiv, the latest attempt to get people out of Mariupol has been unsuccessful.
Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, claimed the agreement on a humanitarian corridor out of the Azovstal steelworks had proven to be a “trap”.
Mr Andryushchenko accused Russian forces of firing their artillery on the exit zone of the four-square-mile industrial plant, which is the temporary home of an estimated 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers and their families, just moments after announcing through loudspeakers that a green passage had been opened.
He said on Tuesday evening there had been 35 airstrikes against the plant over the past 24 hours, with one causing a fire to break out in one of the workshops where civilians had been hiding, leaving some under rubble.