Russia's refocus on eastern Ukraine, following its stalled "special military operation" in the north, and accusations of war crimes against it, increases the likelihood of an “accidental” chemical weapons attack. This could be carried out against civilians in a smaller strategic town.
• Russian forces pulled back from Kyiv following a declaration that they would focus on the Donbas region.
• Evidence of “war crimes” was reported on 02/03 April after the Ukrainians retook Bucha.
• Widespread damage and destruction on health facilities suggest further war crimes from targeted and indiscriminate use of air strikes and artillery in many of the larger and besieged cities. These need further investigation.
• Russian attempts to link the eastern region of Donbas (see map) with the southern area of Crimea would allow it to concentrate on a smaller area,
• They need to take Mariupol to provide a land bridge, where civilians remain, despite international efforts to evacuate them. The Russians have now resorted to tried and tested methods of heavy artillery and air strikes.
• Ukraine accused Russian forces of carrying out “executions” in Irpin, Hostomel and Bucha, with at least 421 bodies found by 03 April.
• Evidence is emerging of sexual violence by armed forces targetting women and girls hiding in shelters.
• Russian denials of such reports of war crimes is an established modus operandi that the Kremlin has used in Chechnya, Grozny and Syria.
• Although Russia has been accused of considering the use of Chemical Weapons (CW), this is unlikely due to the risks to their own troops; they could look to fire white phosphorus or conventional high-explosives against a number of chemical plants.
• Likely that a protracted conflict will continue for many months yet before serious peace talks are considered by either side.
• Mariupol may still hold for several weeks to a month despite the warnings of an imminent collapse, though Russia will achieve a significant tactical advantage if it is able to capture Kramatorsk.
• Further Russian war crimes are likely to be uncovered as Ukrainian forces move further into northern Ukraine, however President Putin is highly unlikely to be indicted.
• The use of a supposedly “accidental” incident using CW continues to rise which will increase further if efforts by Russian ground forces stall once again in the East.