Ukraine: Why has Russia’s 64km convoy near Kyiv stopped moving?

Ns News Online DeskNs News Online Desk: Russia’s huge military convoy, said to be 40 miles (64km) long, near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv has hardly moved in three days, the UK defense ministry says. But US defense officials say Russia still intends to surround and seize the city where some three million people live – by siege tactics if necessary.

Recent satellite images showing the size of the convoy sparked fears that an attack would be imminent.

But UK and US officials say logistical problems could be slowing the advance.

In an intelligence update on Thursday morning, the UK Ministry of Defense said the column had made “little discernible progress in over three days” and remains more than 30km from Kyiv. Several reasons could explain why the huge column, which includes armored vehicles, tanks, and towed artillery, has stopped its advance on the capital. They include logistical problems, unexpected Ukrainian resistance, and low morale among Russian troops.

Logistically, mechanical breakdown and congestion are causing problems, according to the UK government. Food and fuel are said to be in short supply, and there are reports that poor quality and badly maintained tires may also be an issue.

“There’s a massive logistical failure to provide fuel, food, spare parts and tires  they got stuck in the mud in a way that makes it difficult to move vehicles out,” General Sir Richard Barrons, former Commander of the UK Joint Forces Command, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Program me. However, he said that command and control issues – for example faulty radio networks and communicating on open networks – are likely to be causing bigger problems.

The Pentagon also said Russia was having logistical issues and had taken the decision to deliberately regroup and reassess the “progress they have not made and how to make up the lost time”.

Ukrainian resistance is also thought to be hampering the progress of the convoy, according to the Pentagon, although it noted that it could not fully independently verify that claim.

The stronger-than-expected Ukrainian resistance could also be impacting on Russian morale – another reason given for the convoy’s lack of movement.

“The overall morale of people sitting in this convoy is going down every day,” Oleksandr Danylyuk, a former Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council for Ukraine told the BBC, comparing that with the strong motivation of the Ukrainian military to defend its capital.

On Tuesday, a US defense official told reporters that there were signs of morale problems in the Russian force, which makes use of a large number of conscript soldiers.

“Not all of them were… even aware that they were going to be sent into a combat operation,” the official said. Ukraine does have some air capability, and has been using powerful Turkish-made drones to destroy other Russian convoys. But according to Gen Barrons, Kyiv simply does not have the military force necessary to destroy a column of this size.

“They’ve been good at attacking the convoy from the front and sides,” he said, but any damage inflicted from the air would be too localized.

Russia will also have air defenses around the convoy which could bring down Ukrainian targets, Gen Barrons added. So an air attack on the convoy would risk losing more of Ukraine’s already limited air force.

Some commentators have suggested that Nato should consider destroying the convoy, but that would be a major escalation which would risk war between two nuclear powers.

Western governments have said repeatedly that they have no intention of getting directly involved in the conflict.

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