A month after Vladimir Putin launched his brutal war against neighbouring Ukraine, Russian forces are being accused of using human shields as they struggle to overcome staunch resistance.
It comes amid signs that the Ukrainians aren’t just holding on but are actually managing to push back the Russians in some places.
ABC News has reported a US defence official as saying: “Ukrainians are not only in some of these places up sufficiently defending, they're going on the offence in some of these places and actually pushing the Russians backwards or, in the case of Kiev, they're basically forcing them into a defensive position.”
The Americans believe that the Ukrainians have managed to push Russian forces east of the capital back to 55km from the city centre. Earlier this week, it’s thought they had been as near as 20km to the centre of Kyiv.
North of the city, the US thinks Russians troops have come to a standstill, and have been forced “into a defensive position”.
But the intelligence suggests Putin is upping the ante in the east of the country, and it’s thought that more than 1,200 missiles have now been launched by the invading forces.
Overall, the assessments suggest that the heroic resistance by the Ukrainians is far from over. They are being helped by reported plummeting morale among Russian troops, with supply lines broken, a lack of fuel and food, and many of them suffering from frostbite.
It all adds further credence to the widespread view that Putin had thought he would achieve lightning success with his invasion, and has been left frustrated with the lack of progress made by his forces.
But in a chilling twist, the Kyiv Independent has reported a claim from the mayor of Melitopol that the Russians have based themselves in the city and are using it as a base to fire missiles at other cities – effectively making the residents of Melitopol human shields.
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It’s not the first time during the month-long war that Putin has doubled down with increasingly brutal tactics.
The Russians have targeted civilians trying to flee the country, and they stand accused of using white phosphorus in civilian areas and forcibly transporting thousands of children back to Russia.
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