Russian forces massed in a column north-west of Kyiv have made “little progress” and are “suffering continued losses” at the hands of Ukraine’s military, a UK intelligence update has claimed.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) also accused Russia of deploying conscript troops to Ukraine and said Vladimir Putin will have to draw from across his forces “and other sources to replace his losses”.
Russia has admitted that conscript soldiers have been sent into Ukraine and that some have been captured by Ukrainian troops.
Vladimir Putin had vowed that conscripts would not be used and that Russian forces would rely on professional troops.
But Moscow’s defence ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said that “unfortunately there have been detected several instances of the presence of conscript-service military personnel” with units in Ukraine but that “almost all” of them had been recalled to Russia.
He added that some conscripts were taken prisoner by Ukrainian forces while serving in a logistics unit and efforts are under way to free them.
The UK MoD’s daily update, released on Thursday morning, also said there had been a “notable decrease in overall Russian air activity” over Ukraine in recent days, “likely due to the unexpected effectiveness and endurance” of Kyiv’s air defences.
Mr Putin has said the advance by his forces in Ukraine is going according to plan, despite few major cities having been captured after more than two weeks of fighting.
Ukrainian forces have mounted a strong resistance around the nearby towns of Hostomel, Bucha, Vorzel and Irpin.
Russian soldiers stranded in the 40-mile-long armoured military column could soon face freezing conditions, with temperatures forecast to dip to -20C because of easterly wind combining with arctic air.
In this file Maxar satellite image taken and released on 28 February, a military convoy is seen along a highway, north of Ivankiv, Ukraine (Satellite image Â©2022 Maxar Tech)
The weather and lack of progress will make for miserable conditions for the Russian army, whose troops are also believed to be suffering from shortages of food and fuel.
Kyiv has been calling for Nato to impose a no-fly zone over the country to prevent Russian war planes from bombing targets, something western leaders have ruled out because of the potential for war to spill over into a global conflict.
But the UK and EU have promised to provide more weapons, including anti-tank and air defense missiles, and there are signs that Russia is not completely in control of the skies over Ukraine.
Photos released by the state emergency service of Ukraine have shown debris from a Russian fighter jet shot by Ukrainian forces in Chernihiv. Ukraine claims to have downed at least 47 planes and 68 helicopters.