Chris Lange, FISM News
Ukrainian defenders holed up in a Mariupol steel plant report that Russian forces have started to storm the last pocket of resistance, the Associated Press reports.
Denys Shlega, who commands a brigade of Ukraine’s National Guard, said that “the enemy is trying to storm the Azovstal plant with significant forces using armored vehicles.”
The report comes after some of the civilians sheltering in the plant with Ukrainian forces were evacuated in a United Nations-led effort, though it is estimated that roughly 100 civilians remain trapped in the sprawling factory’s underground tunnels.
Meanwhile, Russian forces continue to strike Mariupol with “dumb bombs,” which are not precision-guided and therefore less accurate.
Ukraine knocks out two Russian boats in the Black Sea
Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military chief said his forces destroyed two Russian patrol boats in the Black Sea Monday.
“Two Russian Raptor-class boats were destroyed at dawn today near Zmiinyi (Snake) Island,” Chief of General Staff Valeriy Zaluzhniy wrote on the Telegram messaging app, as reported by Reuters. Zaluzhniy said Ukrainian forces successfully bombed the Russian Raptor-class patrol ships using a Ukrainian Bayraktar drone. Moscow has not responded to the claim.
CIA shows pro-Ukraine Russians how to contact them on the darknet
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency on Monday released instructions in both English and Russian detailing how disaffected Russians can share information with them through the relative anonymity of the darknet, the AP reported. An official speaking on condition of anonymity said the agency is aware that “there are concerned Russians who are desperately trying to reach [the] CIA.”
“It’s not safe to directly engage Americans physically or virtually” in Russia, the official continued. “For those people that want to engage with us securely, this is the way to do it.”
The CIA’s darknet site is only accessible through the Tor internet browser and offers special encryption features to help protect Russian tipsters from Kremlin snooping.
Russian forces struggle to make gains in Donbas
A senior Pentagon official on Monday said Russian forces in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where the majority of fighting is now taking place, are making slow progress. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in a statement that Russian troops are plagued by “poor command and control, low morale, and less than ideal logistics,” as well as increased risk aversion.
“We continue to see minimal, at best, progress by the Russians in the Donbas,” the official said. “They are not making the progress that they had scheduled to make and that progress is uneven and incremental.”
The problems could thwart Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reported plans to annex eastern Ukraine within a month.
Still, Moscow has made gains east of the Ukrainian cities of Izyum and Popasna.
“What we saw there in Popasna is not unlike what we’ve seen in other hamlets in the Donbas. [The Russians] will move in and then declare victory and then withdraw their troops only to let the Ukrainians take it back. So, there was a lot of back and forth over the last couple of days,” the official said.
Ukrainian forces have thus far managed to retain their hold on Kharkiv despite continued Russian airstrikes, according to the official, who noted that “the Ukrainians have been doing an able job over the last 24 to 48 hours of pushing the Russians further away. And they have managed to push the Russians out about 40 kilometers to the east of Kharkiv.”