Russian forces are meeting more resistance near Kyiv and Kharkiv than farther south, analysts say.

Russian forces are meeting more resistance near Kyiv and Kharkiv than farther south, analysts say.

Independent security analysts said Russian forces in the east and the south of Ukraine were maneuvering with less resistance than those forces that were farther north and approaching the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv, where the attacks were less sophisticated and the Ukrainian military had succeeded in engaging Moscow’s army.

Russian military units are attempting to encircle the capital, Kyiv, at least initially, and drive into Kharkiv, said Frederick W. Kagan, the director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.

Those Russian forces have encountered stiffer resistance than they expected.

A report from Janes, the defense intelligence firm, found that Russian forces crossing the border near Kharkiv “appear to have become bogged down in heavy fighting.” Images from social media, the Janes report said, indicate that “some armored columns have been ambushed.”

The longer and better the Ukrainian forces fight, the more time Ukraine has to prepare insurgent operations and the more pain they can inflict on Moscow’s forces, Mr. Kagan said.

“We really have to consider the possibility that Putin expected the Ukrainians to fold and did not expect them to fight,” Mr. Kagan said, noting that the initial missile barrage on Ukraine had been limited to about 100 strikes.

Mr. Putin has done little to prepare the Russian public for a long fight, and the longer the Ukrainians hold on, the more they might be able to undermine the Russian president’s standing.

Still, Russian operations in eastern and southern Ukraine appeared to the independent analysts to be far more effective.

The best trained and most battle-ready forces of the Russian military were positioned outside Donbas, the southeastern region where Ukraine has fought Russian-backed separatists for eight years, according to George Barros, a researcher on the Russia team at the Institute for the Study of War.

Those more experienced forces, instead of a head-on confrontation with Ukrainian forces stationed on the front lines of the Donbas, attacked by maneuvering around the trenches and driving to the rear of the defensive positions. At the same time, forces in Crimea began moving north, spreading out in two directions.

“That will put them in the position of taking the Ukrainian defenders on the line of contact from the rear,” Mr. Kagan said. “That is a pretty well-designed operation.”

Those Russian forces could be trying to envelop and encircle the Ukrainian army in Donbas.

“If the Russians maneuver in such a way that those Ukrainian forces have to pull out of their defensive positions and then fight in the open significantly, that would reduce a material advantage that the Ukrainian defenders would have had if the Russians had conducted a frontal assault out of the occupied Donbas,” Mr. Kagan said.

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