Ukraine has denied Russia a victory for four weeks. A grim new phase could be coming

CNN  — 

On Monday, after intense fighting, Ukrainian forces regained control of Makariv, a town west of Kyiv that had been battered by Russian airstrikes.

It’s tempting to view this small victory for Ukrainian forces as a shift of momentum in the battle for Kyiv: In better times, this suburb would be only an hour’s drive to Khreshchatyk, the capital’s central boulevard.

Kyiv once appeared to be the primary objective of what the Kremlin must have envisioned as a swift regime-change operation. The capital has been rocked by explosions in recent days, but it is far from encircled.

On the Azov Sea, the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol – despite being surrounded and mercilessly pummeled, block by block, by Russian firepower – still eludes Russian control. Its defenders rejected an ultimatum to surrender by Monday morning, thwarting a Russian effort to finalize a land bridge linking Crimea with the separatist republics of the eastern Donbas region.

A destroyed armored personnel carrier is seen in Makariv on March 4.

Nearly a month after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian military has perceptibly shifted its messaging. The Russian military’s advances have been stymied, the Ukrainians say, forcing a shift in Russian tactics.

“Due to the lack of success of the ground phase of the operation, the enemy continues to actively launch missile and bomb strikes on important military and civilian infrastructure using operational and tactical aircraft, high-precision missile weapons and indiscriminate munitions,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement Tuesday.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the Russians are taking more of a standoff approach, launching salvos of missiles from outside of Ukrainian airspace.

In a statement released Sunday, Russia’s defense ministry said warships in the Caspian sea launched Kalibr cruise missiles and aircraft launched Kinzhal hypersonic missile systems from the airspace over Crimea. Those missiles targeted what the Russians described as a large storage base for fuels and lubricants of the Ukrainian military near the settlement of Kostyantynivka, in the southern Mykolaiv region.

Separately, the Russian military said Kalibr cruise missiles were fired from the Black Sea, targeting a workshop for the repair of Ukrainian armored vehicles. Russian precision missiles also targeted what Russia described as a Ukrainian military training center near the settlement of Ovruch, in the northern Zhytomyr region.