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Russia’s hopes for a swift attack on Kyiv are thwarted by fierce Ukrainian resistance

The Russian paratroopers’ helicopter attack on Hostomel airfield north of Kyiv on Thursday began a daring operation whose success may have significantly boosted Moscow’s hopes of capture. control Kyiv in a flash attack.

But the recapture of the heavily strategic airstrip by Ukrainian special forces after more than 10 hours of intense fighting demonstrates both the level of Ukrainian resistance and the high-risk nature of Russia. invasion strategy that so far has brought mixed resultsintelligence officials and defense analysts said.

“What is clear is that if Moscow has any hope of making quick and easy profits, they are,” said Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, a Washington-based consulting organization. was very optimistic. “Some of the big risks that the Russian military has to take. . . not present by reasonable operational requirements. . . Moscow’s thinking about this war seems to have been colored by war optimism.

Map showing the state of play in Kyiv Special forces of both sides vying for control of Hostomel airport on 24 February Russian troops are now in Obolon Heavy fighting in Shuliavka Russian forces reportedly attempted landing by helicopter to capture Sikorsky airfield Troops were advancing from Belarus on both sides of the Dnipro River.  Exact location unclear but not yet in center of Kyiv

Those initial frustrations remain only likely to delay, rather than change, Russia’s ultimate goal of capturing Kyiv and overthrowing the Ukrainian president’s government. Volodymyr ZelenskyWestern officials said.

Russian forces finally recaptured and captured Hostomel, in the northwestern suburbs of Kyiv, on Friday but only after the runway was significantly damaged. Moscow targeted the airfield with the intention of using it to fly large numbers of shock troops to capture the capital quickly. Instead, those air deployments were redirected to an airport in Belarus, 250 km away, and forced to move south by land.

The initial failure to capture and hold Hostomel played a key role in Russia’s slower-than-expected advance into Kyiv, Western officials said, Western officials said, adding that Russia also made less progress in the first two days of the war than was expected by Moscow in the east. Nation.

“Putin’s plan is a brief, decisive victory. Many people have said that it will take 5 minutes or 2 hours and Ukraine will fall. No, it is not. Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian military expert, said next week will be decisive.

The early stages of the Russian invasion were heavily focused on paratroopers. The attack began with intense cruise missile attacks on key Ukrainian defense assets, including more than a dozen airfields, followed by attacks by special forces and soldiers. parachute into key landing sites, such as Hostomel, facilitating the rapid deployment of additional troops.

Western officials warn that Russian military commanders may now switch from that targeted approach to a broader ground attack, noting that the Kremlin has so far deployed less half of the nearly 200,000 troops they had assembled on the Ukrainian border in preparation for the invasion.

James Heappey, UK Armed Forces Secretary, said: “In the Kremlin they will now reflect on the plan not going as it was supposed to, and there will be all sorts of challenges around doing so. to ensure the logistics of sustained combat support that they did not expect. on Saturday.

Heappey told the BBC that in response to the setbacks, Russia could increase its use of heavy artillery bombardment. What lies ahead for Ukraine are days of absolute brutality.

A Ukrainian soldier walks past the wreckage of a burning military truck on the street in Kyiv
Western officials warn that the Russian military could switch from a targeted approach to a broader ground attack © Efrem Lukatsk/AP

On Saturday afternoon, Ukraine remained in control of much of the capital, despite several Russian attacks north and west of the city and fierce fighting throughout the night, including several artillery attacks on nearby towns. residential buildings.

A Western official said: “Ukrainians defended with great courage and with great courage, but warned that Russia’s significantly greater military capabilities meant that Ukrainian resistance could not be reached. extend indefinitely.

“We have stood our ground. . . We successfully fended off and repelled the enemy attacks,” Zelensky said on Saturday afternoon in a televised address to the country. “We broke their plans.”

Ukraine claims it destroyed more than 100 Russian tanks and killed 3,500 Russian soldiers. The military claims of losses by both sides cannot be independently verified.

Felgenhauer said a key victory the Kremlin hoped for – a warm welcome from Ukrainians who see Russia as their historic brother – has failed dramatically.

“Maybe they believe in their own propaganda that the Ukrainians will meet the liberators of Russia with flowers, that the Ukrainian army will lay down their weapons and everything will be done well in the next few days, this Looks like it won’t happen,” he said.

“And that is the main problem. . . The Ukrainian people see that they can fight back,” he added. “This war could become a very serious problem for Russia.”

Additional reporting by Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv

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