This will be controversial, but here it is. I will use Kharkiv as the baseline. Short answer is so far this isn’t a concerted effort to inflict mass casualties. To be clear, civilians have been killed. Here is what I am seeing.
First, the UN estimates 136 civilians killed in the first 6 days of fighting. Given that Russia has launched offensives on 5 fronts, and fighting has been ongoing for 6 days, this is not evidence of mass killing, but the opposite. The numbers would be low if tripled.
The Russian military certainly has the ability to punish the cities that have been bypassed and refuse to surrender. RUSMIL has no shortage of artillery. If RUSMIL was conducting a campaign of vengeance, the number of civilians killed would easily be in the thousands. We would most certainly be seeing videos of rolling Russian artillery and rocket fire, and leveled cities. What we have seen are scattered instances of Russian strikes.
Take Kharkiv, for instance. In Kharkiv it is estimated that 26 people have been killed in a series of strikes since the war began. If Russia was intentionally targeting civilians in the city, we should expect scores if not hundreds of casualties a day. I don’t pretend to know what the targets of the strikes in Kharkiv are. Perhaps these are errant/inaccurate strikes, or misidentified targets, or perhaps strikes designed to strike fear in civilians of what may be coming if the city/government doesn’t surrender.
This all can change in a heartbeat. If Russia feels that it needs to escalate attacks against civilians in an effort to break their will, I have no doubt that Putin will order it.
Russia has vast amounts of artillery. They can flatten Ukraine, literally, but what is the point? To destroy the Ukraine in order to save it?
By the standards of daily casualty figures from WWII, the losses so far are small.
Ukrainian men must stay and fight. A comment from one of them:
Last weekend, I cannot decide should I buy games to play on my PlayStation. Today, I have to decide should I have to fight Russian army to my death. It’s a pretty drastic change.