The big news for now: Check out NASA FIRMS satellite imagery, designed to spot forest fires, but also great at tracking the front lines of a war. This is Kyiv and Chernihiv today:
What we’re seeing there is a whole lot of … nothing. The artillery has stopped. For comparison, here is imagery from a few days ago:
Russia actually pulled out. Its surrender in the Battle for Kyiv is complete.
While we still don’t have visual confirmation, this was reported earlier today:
Hostomel is just north of Bucha, the site of some of the most vicious fighting in this war. You might recall in the early days of the war, when Russia kept air-dropping airborne VDV forces at the airport, while still surrounded by enemy territory, costing Russia hundreds of dead paratroopers. Eventually, Russia’s land forces reached the airport and Bucha, and that’s where the assault was stopped, on the Irpin River, at the city of Irpin. (Rivers have been key to Ukraine’s survival during this war.)
Russia paid handsomely for Hostomel in blood, equipment, and treasure. Thousands are likely dead, including some of their most elite soldiers. And now? They’re walking away from it, defeated. It was either that or be wiped out as Ukrainian forces tightened their grip on the Bucha salient, and were close to completely cutting it off from its supply lines.
Russia’s attempt to save face is ludicrous on its face. They’ve claimed the retreat is a gesture of peace and goodwill, as negotiations go nowhere. They claim Kyiv was never a goal, but a diversion to make gains in the Donbas region.
If true, this would be the most inept and failed diversion in military history. Diversions aren’t supposed to tie up your best troops and cost thousands of lives while the main force remains bogged down in trench warfare. Yes, Russia made gains in other fronts, but they are being rolled back in the south and northeast, while Russia’s gains in the eastern Donbas front remain scant.
Look at all that yellow—territory Ukraine has recaptured from Russia. And the map above is already out of date, missing liberated towns south of Chernihiv. Ukraine has even clawed back some of Russia’s gains in that eastern front. So truly, if the Kyiv front was a diversion, it was an utter failure at … everything. It failed as an attack on Kyiv, it failed to tie down enough Ukrainian forces to prevent their successful defense of the war’s other fronts, and it failed to give Russia the major eastern victories that they now claim were their main focus of the war.
So what now? Russia will apparently move those elite Russian Airborne Forces (known as VDV) units from the Kyiv front to the Donbas front to face off against Ukrainians in trenches. Maybe they’ll send them to Izyum, which they hope to break to begin the encirclement of Ukraine’s army in Eastern Ukraine. Maybe they’ll go down to Mariupol, which still hasn’t fallen to Russia despite five weeks of encirclement and 95% destruction. Meanwhile, Ukraine will leave the defense of Kyiv to capable territorial defense forces, and also shift its regular army forces to other fronts.
Indeed, given the importance of Kyiv to the Ukrainian government, there was likely an outsized military defensive presence in the city. Freeing up those units may prove a net-positive for Ukraine when the final accounting of the war is tallied.
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