A menacing 64-kilometre convoy of military vehicles bearing down on Kyiv in Ukraine seems to have stalled, and it’s unclear why.
Mystery surrounds a 64-kilometre convoy of Russian military vehicles headed towards Kyiv and why it has barely moved in days.
Satellite images of the convoy advancing from the north of the city emerged last week, sparking concerns about Russia’s plans for an aggressive assault on Ukraine’s capital.
However, in recent days the convoy’s progress appears to have stalled.
The United States’ Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Monday the vehicles did not seem to have moved over the weekend.
Mr Kirby also pointed out that vehicles didn’t look like armoured vehicles — as originally feared — and could in fact be resupply trucks.
“That’s not to say that there aren’t combat vehicles in there. We don’t have perfect visibility on it,” he said.
“But the assessment is that it was largely meant to help resupply and it is still stalled. It is still stuck.
“We don’t assess over the course of the weekend that it has made any progress.”
This does not mean Russia has abandoned its plans to attack Kyiv.
A senior United States defence official told reporters on Tuesday authorities had not seen anything that indicated Russia wasn’t still interested in encircling and forcing the surrender of Kyiv.
In fact the advance on Kyiv now appears to be coming from three directions.
Two attacks are coming from the north, with the one approaching from the western side of the Dnipro river being the most advanced. This is where the convoy appears to have stalled at the Antonov Airport (also known as Hostomel Airport), about 50km away from the centre.
“Near Kyiv, we still observe that Russian forces have not moved closer to the city centre,” the official said. “The closest they’ve been able to get is the airport.”
Another approaching from the eastern side of the river was stuck further north, at the city of Chernihiv, around 143km away.
“They’re stuck at Chernihiv and can’t get past it,” the official said.
The third approach was coming from the northeast, where troops were advancing north of the city of Sumy, about 350km away. The city has seen heavy fighting in recent days with Russian forces around 60km away from the centre.
“We still have every reason to assess that their effort is to encircle and force the surrender of Kyiv,” the official said.
“Even as they have not made the geographic progress that we think that they believed they would, they have stepped up … the bombardment of the city.”
A mixture of missile, rocket and artillery fire continues to rain down on Kyiv, as well as air strikes.
“They’re increasing the pressure on Kyiv without question,” the official said.
“We still believe that that’s a major goal of theirs.”
The official said Russian elements already appeared to be in the city and likely doing reconnaissance, as well as sowing confusion to disrupt normal life in the city, setting the groundwork for larger ground forces to enter.
The Ukrainians have also been busy, destroying bridges around Kyiv to hamper any Russian advance, including at the city of Irpin next to the border, and near the Kyiv suburb of Brovary.
It has also parked trams and buses on strategic roads to restrict access.
“We have a lot of presents” for the Russians, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s not sweet. It’s very painful.”