Though Russia's invasion has stalled in most areas of Ukraine, troops have made progress in the south of the country by using the same tactics they deployed in Syria, said Mason Clark, lead Russia analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
Russia's attack on the coastal city Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands of people have been trapped by relentless bombarding for weeks, is "ripped from the Syria playbook," Clark said.
These tactics include "specific neighborhood-by-neighborhood targeting," less precise weapons that take a more brutal toll, and hitting civilian infrastructure.
"They're very intentionally targeting water stations and power supplies and internet towers and cell phone towers and that sort of thing, in a very deliberate attempt to make it more difficult for the defenders to hold out and try and force them to capitulate," Clark said.
“It’s the same approach the Russian forces have taken in a number of cities in Syria, such as Aleppo and Palmyra,” he added. “You also then have the frankly deliberate war crimes that Russians are committing, such as targeting that drama theater in Mariupol that was housing refugees, which unfortunately tracks with what Russian forces have done in the past, both in Syria, as well as in previous wars in Georgia and Chechnya.”
The city of Aleppo was reduced to ruins during the Syrian civil war, with air offensives that killed and maimed scores of civilians. Hospitals were destroyed, and entire housing blocks reduced to rubble.
If Mariupol falls, that could be the "next major change in the war, because it'll free up a lot of Russian forces that are currently deadlocked in that operation, including some of the best units of Russia's Southern Military District that could potentially resume further operations,” he added.