In a briefing in his war room, the two Ukrainian generals responsible for the defense of Kyiv they tell the BBC how their forces are fighting hard to keep Russian artillery out of range of the city and explain why they believe the Ukrainian capital has strongholds that will make a difference against the Russians.
kyiv is feeling the blow of the war most acutely, along with the force of Russia’s destructive weaponry.
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On Monday morning, a nine-story apartment block was hit by a russian missile, killing at least one person, destroying the building and leaving dozens of Ukrainians homeless. It would have been worse if many residents had not been taken to the shelters.
But the center of kyiv and many of its sprawling suburbs they have not yet been touched by Russian weaponry. Other Ukrainian cities are being heavily bombed and there have been many casualties.
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The remaining citizens of kyiv, perhaps half, have either moved to western Ukraine or left the country. But they face the possibility that the same brutal experience awaits them.
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Rivers and wetlands help defense
The generals responsible for the defense of kyiv say they are fighting hard, but acknowledge that the capital is vulnerable to missiles.
However, the city’s topography and terrain are on their side, says Gen. Andriy Kryschenko. The city is large and extensive and is divided by rivers, not only by the mighty Dnieper that divides kyiv, but also by its tributaries.
“It’s hard to defend on one side, since it’s so big,” he says. “But on the other hand, it is an advantage. The rivers and bridges are at the approaches to the city. Our troops are building defenses and fortifications.”
“Around the city there are many small rivers that flow into the Dnieper and there are many peat bogs (wetlands), which means that the area is not suitable for large-scale troop movement“.
Gen. Kryschenko, who is also deputy mayor, wears the same kind of casual army-green attire that his president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has worn to rally his people, impress allies and infuriate his enemies. The general also distilled the president’s optimism.
Another advantage, according to the general, is that kyiv is an industrial city, with workshops and factories that have been reused to produce the elements needed for the fortifications: concrete blocks, sandbags, and a variety of rough-looking anti-tank obstacles.
Kryschenko and Knyazev stand in front of the large interactive screen they use to track the Russian advance toward kyiv.
They explain that they had attacked and stopped the advance of two main attacks: one from the east and one from the northwest, which included the much-discussed 40-mile column of Russian armor.
They say it had been attacked and forced to disperseand insisted that he is no longer a threat.
The northwest remains the main focus of the Russians. Knyazev points to what he said was the closest Russian infantry force. I was across the river Irpinabout 20 km from the center of kyiv.
The Ukrainians have deployed a well-organized and well-armed force, which has blown up strategic bridges. Thousands of displaced people from the city of Irpin have been crossing the river on the remains of one of them with some possessions and, very often, their dogs and cats.
But the Russians, says General Knyazev, They couldn’t follow them.
“These are very swampy lands, and they cannot pass through. If there were no Ukrainian soldiers, they would just throw a bridge across the river. But we are there and we want to destroy them.”
As he spoke, another missile exploded not far from the first. The noise of the explosions could be clearly heard in the war room. “Listen,” a junior officer said, “that was our air defense shooting down another.”
But the missile reached the city. A bus driver was killed when he hit the ground with a huge explosion that also destroyed a row of buildings.
Ukraine’s military success has surprised its friends and enemies. The president and his commanders are more than pleased with the performance of his army and thousands of volunteers.
But the Russians have not yet put their full force into this capital city.
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