Explosions hit Kiev overnight amid uncertainty over Russian convoy

Anastasia Vakulenko (L) consoles Natalya Chikonova as they seek refuge in a metro station on the seventh day of the Russian invasion, in Kiev, Ukraine March 2, 2022.

Marcus Yam | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Explosions rocked the Ukrainian capital Kiev overnight amid widespread uncertainty over whether Russia will launch a full assault on the capital in the hours and days to come.

Massive explosions were heard and filmed across the city last night, with video on social media showing a huge ball of fire rising into the sky over the city. It is not known who the targets of the explosions were or if there were any casualties caused by the explosions.

NBC News is working to verify camera footage posted online claiming to show explosions hitting the city.

More than a million Ukrainians have fled the country since the Russian invasion began a week ago, but many have stayed and taken up arms to fight Russian forces.

Many Kyiv residents, including children, also remain in the city, living or seeking refuge in metro stations, basements and underground bunkers when air raid sirens warn of impending strikes.

A girl sits with her dog and cat in the Dorohozhychi metro station which has been turned into a bomb shelter on March 02, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Chris McGrath | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russia has said Kyiv residents will be allowed to evacuate the city towards Vasylkiv, southwest of the city.

“There will be no obstacles from Russian military personnel to the exit of the civilian population,” Major General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said on Wednesday. according to Russian news agency TASS.

This is the second time Russia has warned Kyiv residents to leave the city, with Konashenkov insisting on Monday that the road to Vasylkiv was ‘open and safe’, despite reports of Russian missile strikes on the city . The following image shows damage allegedly caused by Russian missile strikes on Vasylkiv.

A five-storey hostel in Vasylkiv, Kyiv region, northern Ukraine, shows damage from Russian rockets.

Edition of the future | Edition of the future | Getty Images

The convoy

As many Kyiv residents take refuge in metro stations and bunkers, the decision to stay or leave – and risk being injured and killed as they leave – has become acute this week, especially as the Concerns are growing that Russia may be ready to launch an all-out assault on the city.

Fears grew after satellite images emerged earlier this week showing a huge convoy of Russian military vehicles, estimated to be around 40 miles long, meandering slowly towards the capital.

The following satellite image was taken by US company Maxar Technologies on Monday. It appears to show a convoy of Russian tanks and armored trucks stretching from Pybirsk, further north of Kiev, to Antonov Airport (also known as Hostomel Airport – the site of the fighting in the last week between Russian and Ukrainian forces) on the northwestern outskirts of the Ukrainian capital.

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies taken on February 28 appear to show a convoy of Russian vehicles advancing towards Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. The firm specifies that these images show the northern end of the convoy, with logistics and supply vehicles. Satellite image (c) 2022 Maxar Technologies.

Maxar Technologies | Getty Images

However, the convoy was reportedly blocked on its way to Kiev, amid unconfirmed reports of food and fuel shortages.

Asked about the progress and position of the convoy at a press briefing on Wednesday, US Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby said “we still believe that this convoy, but more broadly the northern push by the Russians to the south, towards Kiev, remains blocked.”

“Based on our best estimates, we have made no appreciable progress geographically speaking in the past 24 to 36 hours,” he added.

The US defense official said there were several reasons for the delay: “First, we think the Russians are deliberately, in fact, regrouping and reassessing the progress they haven’t made and how to catch up with the wasted time. Second, we believe they encountered logistical and sustainment challenges, challenges that we don’t believe they fully anticipated.”

Finally, he said, Russian forces have experienced “resistance from the Ukrainians”, with indications – although the United States could not fully independently verify them – that “the Ukrainians have in fact tried to slow down this convoy”.

The UK Ministry of Defense confirmed the US assessment of the convoy on Thursday, issuing an intelligence update in which it said that “the main body of the large Russian column…remains over 30 kilometers away ( 18.6 miles) from the center of the city, having been delayed by fierce Ukrainian resistance, mechanical breakdowns and traffic jams.”

The ministry also felt that “the column has made little discernible progress in more than three days.”

Jack Watling, a land warfare and military science researcher at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, said the convoy faced a number of logistical challenges.

“When you have so many vehicles on a very small number of roads, you have to move fuel, food, and large amounts along that road, so you have to continually move vehicles sideways and then to the other end, you have at work who is going to go where and what they are going to do,” he said.

“So I think the Russians are trying to sort themselves out, so to speak, and shake themselves off at the other end and prepare for what they want to do in Kyiv,” he told Reuters on Thursday. BBC Today program.

dire situation

The entrance to a building after Russian forces shelled Constitution Square in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on March 2, 2022.

Sergei Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

The British Ministry of Defense said on Thursday that despite heavy Russian bombardment, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol were still in Ukrainian hands.

Some forces entered the southern city of Kherson, the defense ministry said, but “the military situation remains unclear”.

RUSI’s Watling said we are seeing a shift from “the war of the Ukrainian army to the war of the mayors”, with several Ukrainian municipal officials providing detailed accounts of Russian attacks on their cities and attempts at resistance.

“Essentially, a number of towns have been surrounded at this point and the longer they hold out, the fewer troops the Russians will have to surround Kyiv. And additionally, the longer Kyiv can continue to attack and disrupt Russian forces attempting to encircle the city… If it’s not encircled it can last longer,” he told the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have already chosen to flee west for their safety, and the UN expects the number of displaced people to rise.

On Thursday, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a press release that “hour by hour, minute by minute, more and more people are fleeing the terrifying reality of violence. Countless have been internally displaced. And unless there is an end immediate conflict, millions more will likely be forced to flee Ukraine.”

Western countries imposed massive sanctions on the Russian economy and key people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, sending the ruble plummeting. The country, banned from international cultural and sports competitions, seems increasingly isolated on the world stage.

There are, however, calls for the West to do more when Ukraine needs it. Former Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told CNBC on Thursday that “it seems like the West is scared of Russia.”

Bonny J. Streater