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Russia and Ukraine crisis: Where are the Russian troops in Ukraine?

The announcement from the governor of the city of Kherson of its capture marks the first major population centre in Russian hands.

On the seventh day of fighting in Ukraine on March 2, Russia claims control of the southern port city of Kherson, street battles rage in Ukraine's second-biggest city Kharkiv, and Kyiv braces for a feared Russian assault.
Sergey BobokAFP

The war in Ukraine has been raging for over a week, and Russian hopes of a swift victory have dwindled in the face of stubborn Ukrainian resistance.

Nevertheless progress has been made, especially in the last few days. Announced on March 3 was the fall of Kherson, a port city in southern Ukraine, marking the first major population centre to be captured by the invaders. Other cities are under threat, notably Kharkiv in the east, Mariupol in the south, and Kyiv in the heart of the country.

Relying on government reports from both sides is not helpful for providing an accurate picture of troop locations. Fortunately, organizations have taken the job upon themselves to verify reports and evidence which can provide as clear a picture as possible.

Mapping troop movements in wartime

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a United States-based think tank, has come into its own during the conflict. The ISW has been referenced in articles from many important western news agencies, including the BBC, and their maps have been reproduced daily that are the best way so far to monitor troop movements.

Kyiv, the capital, is under attack from a large Russian convoy, but there has been little movement since Wednesday. After looking under threat last week, the city is still defended strongly. Fighting is fiercer in other regions of Ukraine.

As of Thursday March 3 2022, Russia is in control on the cities of: Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Melitopol. Under heavy attack are: Kharkiv and Mariupol. The latter has been surrounded and is under a siege that has been described as "like Leningrad," the infamous siege during the Second World War when hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed by German encirclement.

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Why is it so difficult to pinpoint troop movements?

It is difficult for news agencies to verify locations of anything in war. It takes time to verify sources. When much of the west is united behind support for Ukraine, it would be detrimental for their army if their location was revealed on the 10pm news in the UK.

The Ukrainian military has made it clear to foreign journalists that they do not want to be filmed for fear of Russian troops begin able to locate them. The same is true of the Russians are nearly all participants of a war. Deception and intelligence are key in a successful campaign, and having units broadcast their positions on news and social media is a problem.