|Author: David Batashvili, Research Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation|
This is a special issue of the Rondeli Russian Military Digest dedicated to the Russo-Ukrainian War
In the early morning of 24 February 2022, Russian armed forces launched an offensive against Ukraine from the Russian-Ukrainian border, Belarusian-Ukrainian border, occupied Crimea and occupied Donbas. In parallel with missile and air strikes, Russian land forces started operations in many parts of Ukraine.
In the north, Russians launched attack on capital Kyiv, using territory of Belarus. On 24 February, Russians captured areas north of the capital on the Belarus-Ukraine border, including contaminated territories around Prypyat and Chornobyl. At the same time, they launched an airborne assault using helicopters to capture the airport in Hostomel located only about 15 kilometers from Kyiv. This was followed by heavy fighting in and around Hostomel as Ukrainian forces were trying to dislodge Russian airborne troops. Ukrainians succeeded in doing so late on 24 February.
In the early hours of 25 February, large Russian tank and mechanized forces passed through the areas captured the previous day and developed a strong attack on Kyiv. They quickly reached the area of Hostomel-Bucha-Vorzel-Irpin, close to Kyiv, where they were stopped by the Ukrainian forces who engaged them in combat. In Kyiv, preparations began for defense of the city in street battles in case Russians reached it, with numerous civilians taking up arms and joining the effort along with the army, National Guard and law enforcement services.
On the eastern side of the Dnieper River, northeast of Kyiv, Russians made efforts to approach the capital from that direction as well. They came close to Chernihiv on 24 February, but were stopped by Ukrainians north of the city. Chernihiv remained under Ukrainian control as of 18:00 on 25 February.
A lot of maneuver combat occurred east of Chernihiv in Sumy Oblast with some areas changing hands between the two sides on 24 and 25 February. Heavy battles were fought in the streets of Sumy city on the night of 24-25 February. On 25 February, Russian forces took the city of Konotop and appeared to be trying to surround the Ukrainian defenders in Sumy city.
Static shot from the Russo-Ukrainian War interactive map. Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy areas as of 18:00 Kyiv Time on 25 February. All information on the maps is approximate.
Russians attacked Kharkiv – one of their most important targets besides Kyiv, located only 25 kilometers from the Russian border – in the early hours of the offensive on 24 February, apparently trying to quickly take the city. This failed, and Russian forces were repulsed with casualties. Fighting in front of Kharkiv then continued throughout 24 February and the next day, with Russians failing to advance into the city as of 18:00 Kyiv Time on 25 February.
Russians tried to attack on several sectors of the old Donbas frontline, most intensely north of Luhansk and towards Mariupol. None of these Russian attacks succeeded as of 18:00, 25 February. North of the occupied part of Donbas, Russians attacked across the border with Ukraine in the direction of Starobilsk. Their advance was limited on 24 February. In the afternoon of 25 February, Ukrainians counterattacked, regaining some of the territory in this area.
Russian forces attacking from Crimea achieved significant success on 24 February. They were able to take over areas to the immediate north of Crimea, and quickly advance towards both Kherson and Melitopol, reaching these cities that same day. Both of these directions of Russian attack represent serious threat to Ukrainians. Taking Kherson gives Russians a foothold to the west of Dnieper River with opportunities to continue attack towards Mykolaiv and Odessa on the one hand, and Kryvyi Rih, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro on the other. Taking Melitopol allows them to advance against Mariupol from the rear, threatening to surround Ukrainian forces defending that city.
Russians tried to quickly cross Dnieper in the area of Kherson on 24 February. They initially succeeded, but where then repulsed by Ukrainians back across the river. However, by 18:00 on 25 February Russians had been able to take back the crossing after heavy fighting, gaining foothold for advancing into Kherson city.
Russian forces entered Melitopol on 24 February but met Ukrainian resistance there and were unable to take the city. Fighting in Melitopol continued on 25 February. By the evening of that day, reports had emerged of a Russian amphibious landing taking place on the Sea of Azov shore west of Mariupol. Details regarding that information were unclear at that point.