Opinion divided as Russians close in on Kiev

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The lightning strike reportedly launched at first by the Russians was according to western assessment neutralised by a strong fightback by the Ukrainians…reports Ashish Ray

Opinion is divided among western military experts as to whether Kiev, capital of Ukraine, will fall to Russian forces over the next few days.

Retired American Lieutenant General Ben Hodges now a security analyst, who visited the city four weeks ago, speaking from Frankfurt in Germany, expressed doubts to BBC about Russia’s ability to capture Kiev. Most others though are apprehensive that this was inevitable.

A 40-mile convoy of Russian armoured vehicles rumbling towards the capital from its north was stationary for over a week. Satellite images obtained from Maxar Technologies released by the United States’ defence department known as the Pentagon indicated the vehicles with heavy artillery and thousands of soldiers had moved since Thursday; and some of them were within five kilometres of the city.

The US officials claimed the Russians have “largely dispersed and redeployed”. Kiev’s mayor Vitali Klitschko told BBC: “Every street, every building, every checkpoint has been fortified.”

The British defence ministry said the Kremlin could be close to encircling if not entering a metropolis of three million people, although half its population have left for safer areas within the country or neighbouring countries. “Russia is likely seeking to reset and re-posture its forces for renewed offensive activity in the coming days,” Reuters quoted the British defence ministry as saying.

The lightning strike reportedly launched at first by the Russians was according to western assessment neutralised by a strong fightback by the Ukrainians. After more than two weeks of warfare, while the Russians have surrounded several cities, they control only one, which is Kherson in southern Ukraine close to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

However, TASS reported that the Russian defence ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov in Moscow stated Russia’s air defence forces downed three Ukrainian Mil Mi-25 helicopters and eight unmanned aerial vehicles in the past 24 hours. He also said the Russian air force destroyed 107 Ukrainian military facilities in the same period. These are said to include military airfields in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankovsk.

“Since the start of the operation, a total of 3,213 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities were disabled,” Konashenkov claimed. He added: “As many as 98 aircraft, 118 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1,041 tanks and other combat armoured vehicles, 113 multiple rocket launchers, 389 field artillery pieces and mortars, 843 military motor vehicles were destroyed.”

There was no independent verification of the claim. But both Ukrainian and western sources admitted the Russians have inflicted heavy losses on Ukraine’s conventional defence capability. Ukraine has therefore adopted guerrilla tactics, with armed citizens involved in the resistance.

Reuters also reported social media platform Facebook “will temporarily allow some posts that call for the death of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in countries, including Russia, Ukraine and Poland, according to internal emails to its content moderators.” The Russian embassy in Washington demanded that the US stop the “extremist activities” of Facebook.

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