The increasing rocket and artillery attacks on Kyiv and Kharkiv on Wednesday signaled that the fearsome all-out siege of Ukraine’s two largest cities had begun.
In the face of Ukraine’s fortified defensive efforts against urban areas, in recent days Russia’s strategy has shifted towards more devastating attacks on cities that have hitherto repelled. ground attacks. The level of civilian casualties has skyrocketed.
The Pentagon said on Tuesday that 80% of Russian forces that Moscow concentrated on the Ukrainian border before last week’s invasion are now in Ukraine.
US officials say Russian weapons inside Ukraine include launch systems that can be used to fire “thermobaric” bombs, which suck in oxygen to create a particularly violent explosion.
General Sir Richard Barrons, former commander of the UK’s Strategic Command, said: “What’s to come on the road to Kyiv and other cities is an entirely different order in terms of the size of the potential military force. power.
“It’s something that will be used I imagine in the next 48 hours or so. . . We are about to see a possible step change in violence,” he told BBC Northern Ireland on Tuesday.
The British Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday morning that “Russian air strikes and heavy artillery have continued to target areas that have been built up in the last 24 hours”.
A rocket attack hit a police headquarters in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Wednesday morning, where the regional governor said at least 21 people were killed and 112 injured in the attack. past 24 hours. That was after an attack on Kyiv’s main TV tower on Tuesday night, and shelling of residential areas west and east of the capital overnight.
Russia also used missiles to hit targets in Zhytomyr, a town west of Kyiv where an air base is located, in a sign that Moscow may be turning its attention to the western third. of the country, the route for most of the refugees fleeing the conflict. Ukrainian officials said four people were killed in the attack on residential areas.
At the same time, the front of a Russian military convoy stretching more than 60km on Tuesday reached the outskirts of Kyiv, putting the city center within range of the BM-21 Grad missile that Russia used with destructive power. destroy residential areas. in Kharkiv.
Russia has air superiority over Ukraine but not. So Russia’s ability to bomb a convoy has increased calls from Ukraine for its Nato allies to enact a no-fly zone over the country.
Ben Wallace, the UK’s defense secretary, says that option has not been discussed as it would effectively mark Nato’s declaration of war on Russia.
Furthermore, it may not reduce the extent of Russian urban bombardment. “The bombardment they are carrying out is from Russian artillery. So a no-fly zone won’t affect that,” he told the BBC.
The Russian military continues to have problems prosecuting its operation in Ukraine, as logistical problems appear to be slowing progress on this offensive on Kyiv soil, a senior US defense official said. .
The official said on Tuesday night that Russia’s main advance on the capital had made little progress over the past 24 hours, amid continued resistance by Ukrainian forces and signs of increasing restrictions. logistical constraints, including inadequate fuel supplies.
“It’s not exactly moving at great speed. They continued to bog down, coming down from the north, to get to Kyiv,” the official said. “We are also seeing signs that they are having problems feeding their troops, that they are not only running out of gas but are running out of food.”
Additional reporting by Jude Webber in Dublin