Sep 18, 2022 - World

Russia increasing strikes on Ukraine civilian targets after setbacks, U.K. says

A worker repairing damaged technical installations outside of a destroyed building following shelling in the center of Kharkiv on Sept. 18.
A worker repairs damaged technical installations outside of a destroyed building following shelling in the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 18. Photo: Sergei Chuzavkov/AFP via Getty Images

Facing twin counteroffensives and major territorial setbacks in south and northeast Ukraine, the Russian military has increased its targeting of civilian infrastructure in an attempt to undermine Ukrainian morale, the United Kingdom's defense ministry said in an intelligence update over the weekend.

Why it matters: Ukraine's pushes into Kherson and Kharkiv Oblasts have reshaped the battlefield, and marginal but vocal Russian pro-war activists and bloggers are beginning to challenge the Kremlin's official narrative about the war, NBC News reports.

  • Their break suggests morale around the invasion is slipping and that the Kremlin's dominant control of information pertaining to its so-called "special operation" may be fraying.

What they're saying: “The special military operation has completely failed,” Igor Girkin, a Russian army veteran who commanded pro-Russian separatist forces in the Donbas region in 2014, said last Monday in a video uploaded on Telegram, a messaging service.

  • “Since March, we have had a full-fledged war. But until now, Russian authorities, the defense ministry and general staff have behaved as if there’s no war," Girkin added.

Yes, but: Despite the setbacks — particularly in Kharkiv Oblast — there are no indications the Kremlin intends to draw down its invasion, as it insisted last week that it "will continue until all the goals that were originally set are achieved."

  • President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russian officials are not "in a rush" to end the war, though he also told India Prime Minister Narendra Modi that they are doing their best to stop it "as soon as possible," seemingly in an attempt to alleviate Modi's concerns.

In response to the offensive, the United Kingdom's defense ministry said Sunday that Russia's military increased strikes on civilian infrastructure "even where it probably perceives no immediate military effect."

  • "As it faces setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely extended the locations it is prepared to strike in an attempt to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government," the update continues.

The big picture: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week that another mass burial site was found near the recently liberated town of Izyum, while Ukraine's defense ministry said the site contained at least 440 unmarked graves.

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