Russian Forces focused their main efforts on offensive operations on the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Shakhtarsk fronts.
In Crimea, the occupying authorities started recruiting “voluntary units” to counter active resistance movements and cover for the shortage of police. The units will patrol urban areas and hunt residents who are acting as saboteurs and artillery spotters for Ukraine.
In the Mariupol and Kherson regions, the occupying regime is also strengthening its control and has ordered public employees to hand in their personal phones so the software can be installed to record their conversations. In the occupied areas of Kherson Oblast, FSB representatives have been overseeing large-scale searches of residential buildings and carrying out telephone checks.
Russian authorities stepped-up forced passportization in the occupied territories by further emphasizing the link between a Russian passport and access to services. From March, pensions and other social payments will only be available to those who have Russian papers.
In the occupied areas of Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts, car owners are also being forced to re-register their vehicles in accordance with Russian laws – a process that requires a Russian passport. The occupiers have said they will seize cars without Russian registration.
While Russia continued shelling the liberated territories of Ukraine, Kupiansk city military administration announced a mandatory evacuation for children and people with reduced mobility in the Kupiansk hromada (municipality), around 70 miles from Kharkiv.
Ukrainian authorities also continued to document war crimes carried out since the February 2022 invasion, exhuming the bodies of tortured people in liberated areas and collating evidence from those detained in detention centers.
Russian forces evacuated certain categories of citizens from occupied Crimea, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported. Servicemen stationed at the Perevalne military base, which has been held by Moscow since 2014, have been sending their families to Russia, the General Staff said in a post on Facebook.
“Resistance of the Nation,” a new movement opposed to the occupation, has emerged on the peninsula. The group set fire to a car displaying the “Z” symbol in Feodosia and warned of more to come. “Practice being a pedestrian. After the dismantling of the Crimean bridge, everyone will have to go to the Russian Federation on foot,” the group said on its Telegram channel.
At the same time, “Yellow Ribbon” activists continued their campaign in Crimea. According to Ukraine’s Special Operation Forces’ National Resistance Center, more than 130 yellow ribbons – a symbol of resistance – were painted in public places in Simferopol alone.
A 62-year-old woman was arrested for painting Ukrainian flags on the walls of houses, fences, and benches in the center of Balaklava. A criminal case was opened against her and she might face three years in prison, Crimean Wind reported.
A man from St. Petersburg was jailed for 6 years for “high treason” after he tried to join the Ukrainian armed forces and fight against the Russian Federation, the pro-Russian Crimean Information Agency reported. The 40-year-old man, who was hoping to fight alongside other Russian defectors, was caught as he tried to get to Ukraine from occupied Crimea by swimming in the direction of Odesa, the agency said.
Amid signs that pro-Ukrainian activity on the peninsula is strengthening, Russian authorities are setting up voluntary units to suppress resistance. There is a shortage of law enforcement officers as a result of the war, and one of the tasks of the units is to identify artillery spotters and saboteurs among the local population, the General Staff said. The units will also patrol urban areas.
The occupying forces have also started giving land in Crimea to policemen of the Russian Guard, the internal military force of Russia, to secure their loyalty and reward their repression of the local population, the National Resistance Center said.
Keir Simmons, a reporter for NBC News, might face a ban from Ukraine after he traveled to occupied Crimea via Russia to interview residents about the occupation. Pro-Ukrainian residents are afraid to speak on camera for fear of reprisals, and the report featured exclusively pro-Russian voices. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine said visiting Crimea from the Russian Federation is a violation of Ukrainian legislation, and Simmons might be banned from entering Ukraine.
“Bakhmut is shelled from all sides, the enemy is trying to get around from the north side and seize [the city] in a pincer movement,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk Military Administration, said during the 24/7 national newscast on March 2. “The settlement is fired on intensively, and the city is more than 80% destroyed.”
Fewer than 5,000 civilians remain in Bakhmut, including 37 children, and because the city is a “sensitive site,” the military is controlling entry and exit using special passes, Kyrylenko said.
Ukrainian authorities are continuing to evacuate residents, but “people are in different places and hide from the evacuation, they have no desire to evacuate,” he said.
The National Resistance Center, created by Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said a video by Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin about the almost complete encirclement of Bakhmut was disinformation.
The center said the recording was made in the village of Paraskoviivka, north of Bakhmut, which Wagner PMC said it had captured in February. “The video is provocative and part of a disinformation campaign against the population of Ukraine intended to spread panic and provoke the top [Ukrainian] military and political leadership,” the center said.
The Territorial Defence Forces captured two Wagner fighters near Bakhmut on March 2. One of the detainees said during interrogation that he traveled to Ukraine from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, in northern Russia. He said he had trained for just 20 days after Wagner recruited him from prison, where he was serving time for attempted murder and robbery.
Another Wagner mercenary said he came to the war from the Amur region, in the east of Russia. During questioning, he told Ukrainian forces he was unaware he was fighting in Bakhmut.
Russian forces suffered significant losses on the Avdiivka front. An untrained regiment mobilized from Irkutsk Oblast was almost completely wiped-out, relatives of the soldiers told Sibir.Realii. The conscripts said commanders had saved soldiers with minor injuries from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, but the seriously wounded and killed from Irkutsk were left where they were. The commanders didn’t want to risk other soldiers’ lives in a rescue attempt and were “afraid to lose their military equipment,” the conscripts said.
Further evidence of setbacks for Moscow on the Avdiivka front could be seen in a video of Russian women whose husbands and brothers were involved in the fighting. They said their relatives were sent to Opytne as a part of the 1,439th regiment and were surrounded by Ukrainian soldiers.
“The command left them, didn’t respond to requests for support, and didn’t permit them to leave their positions,” said one of the women on the video. “Our men go several days without food and water, with only automatic weapons. There are already several men wounded and dead.”
Russia continues to conduct covert mobilization in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine. In Horlivka, Donetsk Oblast, Russian forces planned another wave of mobilization starting on March 5. “All heads of educational institutions were given written instructions from the Russian occupation administration regarding the military registration of men born from 1995 to 2005,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said.
In Mariupol, the occupying regime moved to strengthen its grip on the area. Russian forces set up new checkpoints on the route from Mariupol to Sartana (a settlement to the north-east of Mariupol), and documents and cell phones were checked, according to Petro Andriushchenko, advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol.
In an attempt to further control communications in the city, the Russian occupiers told public servants there would be mandatory tapping of phones. They were ordered to hand in their personal phones for the installation of software to record their conversations. The occupation authorities will also install equipment to monitor Internet traffic. At the same time, the number of patrols on the streets has increased.
Russian forces continued attacking the settlements of the Kharkiv, Kupiansk, and Chuhuiv districts, killing and injuring people.
The Kupiansk city military administration announced the mandatory evacuation of children and people with reduced mobility in the Kupiansk hromada. Adults will be evacuated at will.
A Russian pilot who bombed the Kharkiv TV tower was jailed for 12 years for war crimes. It was established that the invaders had used eight FAB-500 aircraft bombs in the attack on civilian targets in the city, the prosecutor’s office said.
The pilot was shot down by Ukrainian defenders immediately after he dropped the bombs on March 6, 2022. He was arrested after ejecting and landing.
Russian soldiers continued shelling Ukrainian-controlled territory and attacked a humanitarian aid delivery point in Kozatske. Many civilians were injured, including a 16-year-old, according to the Kherson Oblast Military Administration. The Russian occupiers launched a drone that dropped explosives on civilians who had arrived to collect vegetables, the administration said.
Ukrainian law enforcement officers continued to exhume the bodies of people killed during the occupation. On March 2, a preliminary examination of the bodies of two men who were held by the Russian military during the occupation revealed numerous injuries, including broken ribs.
The Russians created a network of at least 20 torture centers in Kherson, which Ukrainian and international lawyers are investigating. They said such centers were part of a Russian strategy to exterminate Ukrainian identity.
In the occupied areas of the oblast, Russian forces intensified their repression of civilians. FSB representatives arrived in the settlements of Pishchanivka and Poima, and Ukraine’s General Staff reported that the occupiers were carrying out large-scale searches of residential buildings and checking phones.
About 200 residents of the settlement of Boiove were taken away by the occupiers for so-called “filtration” – a system of security checks and personal data collection. People are asked about their connections with Ukraine, and their phones, photographs, and social media might be examined. Sometimes the interrogations also involve forced nudity and tattoo checks. Since the residents were taken, Russian mercenaries have been quartered in their homes.
Despite all the repression and filtration measures, Russian occupation authorities are preparing to leave Oleshky and Skadovsk for Crimea. “Since February 21, the departure of local collaborators to Bakhchysarai, Simferopol, and Kerch has been recorded, and since February 24, the occupiers have announced the so-called ‘evacuation’ to everyone who is interested,” the general staff reported. “The enemy used military trucks to transport the collaborators, only hand luggage is allowed.”
Occupying forces continued their strategy of forced passportization. All car owners in the occupied region of Kherson have been told they will have to re-register their vehicles in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation by May 1. This is only possible with a Russian passport, and since the occupiers have said they will seize cars without a Russian registration, drivers will have to change their citizenship to keep their vehicles.
Forced passportization also continued in Luhansk Oblast. There are restrictions on free movement in an increasingly wide area for all civilians who do not have Russian papers. Starobilsk, Rubizhne, and Stanytsia Luhanska were added to the list of affected settlements, so now a Russian passport is required to move between them.
As in Kherson Oblast, drivers in Luhansk are being forced to register their license plates in line with Russian laws if they want to keep their cars. According to the National Resistance Center, more than 13,000 driving licenses and about 10,000 Russian-style plates were issued in February.
Russian soldiers continued to shell the waters of the Dnipro–Buh estuary. Sometimes missiles reach the coast of the Ochakiv and Kutsurub hromadas, which suffer from these attacks, operational command Pivden (South) reported.
According to Natalia Humeniuk, spokeswoman for the defense forces in the region, Russian forces are receiving military supplies from the occupied part of the Kherson region. “The Kinburn Spit is a peninsula connected by land to this area, they can gradually pull up these weapons from [the occupied part of Kherson Oblast],” she said during the 24/7 national newscast. “Our units are resisting, and every day we have achievements in the destruction of their equipment: over the past day we have destroyed 2 units of heavy equipment, 5 units of armored vehicles, and 4 boats that the enemy prepared for sabotage.”
Officials from the State Environmental Inspectorate of the South-Western District have conducted preliminary assessments of the damage caused by Russia’s aggression. The environmental cost as a result of the shelling of electricity substations and other energy infrastructure in the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions was estimated at 115.2 million hryvnias (approximately $3 million US dollars), they said.
Russian soldiers continued to attack Ukraine-controlled territory. On March 2, an air attack on a residential building in Zaporizhzhia killed 13 people, including an 8-month-old girl. Five people are still listed as missing.
Russian authorities declared Zaporizhzhia Oblast occupied, even though they do not have control of the whole region. On March 3, they said the occupied city of Melitopol will be the capital of Zaporizhzhia Oblast instead of the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia. The Kremlin-controlled Ria Novosti news agency reported that the decision was “signed” by Yevgeniy Balitskiy, the Moscow-appointed governor of Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Russian forces banned the use of Ukrainian currency in the occupied part of the oblast and stopped the exchange of hryvnias for rubles by legal entities and small businesses, the pro-Russian Telegram channel Primorsk reported. Local residents can still exchange hryvnias for rubles in local banks.
The occupation administration in Zaporizhzhia Oblast has not paid salaries to public sector employees for two months, the National Resistance Center reported. People, including teachers, doctors, railway workers, and postmen, have not received any money, the center said.
“It looks especially cynical since they are blocking Ukrainian payments and are on the hunt for hryvnia,” the center said. “The economic blockade of the region is beneficial for the Kremlin to take local residents to the Russian Federation under the pretext of ‘evacuation’ and bring in Russians in their place.”
Russian invaders continue to loot the population. Since the beginning of February, Russian mercenaries have been taking cars from residents without Russian passports, the Ukrainian General Staff said.
Russians are also being housed in Ukrainians’ homes. In Melitopol, the occupiers are settling doctors and teachers from Russia in student dormitories until they find a “nobody’s” apartment for them, the resistance center said.
The occupation administration in the city of Tokmak is forcing schoolchildren to write letters to Russian military personnel. “If they refuse, ‘preventive conversations’ are held with the children’s parents. All letters are checked by the visiting teachers who dictate what the child should write,” the National Resistance Center said.
Also, according to the center, all schools are obliged to play the Russian national anthem before classes and hold a mandatory “hour about important matters,” in which children are taught the Kremlin’s interpretation of the war.
At the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, there is now a catastrophic lack of skilled workers who can ensure the safe running of the facility. “The Russian occupiers employ people without appropriate education and experience at the Nuclear Power Plant, which could lead to unpredictable consequences,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said.
Elina Beketova is a Democracy Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), focusing on the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. She worked as a journalist, editor, and TV anchor for various news stations in Kharkiv and Kyiv, and currently contributes to the translator’s team of Ukrainska Pravda, the biggest Ukrainian online newspaper.
Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.