Russian 5km-long column advances on Kyiv. Zelensky doesn’t expect much from talks with Russia

Satellite images showed a 5-km long column moving towards Kyiv on Monday, Feb. 28 with thousands of infantry troops, tanks, self-propelled artillery, and fuel and logistical trucks, still 50km northwest of its target. In the city, weapons were being handed out to people to defend the city.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has little hope that the peace talks with Russia beginning on the Border with Belarus will resolve the conflict. With the massive Russian force on the move, Zelensky and Western intelligence watchers said Monday morning that the coming 24 hours would be “crucial” to the conflict. On Sunday, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear forces to go on combat readiness in response to Western sanctions and “aggression.”

DEBKAfile sketches the situation on the different fronts of the Ukraine war:

1. The Russians paused their first attempt to take Kyiv after invading Ukraine last Thursday to await fresh supplies and fuel and meanwhile assemble a massive convoy for the operation.

2. West intelligence analysts don’t rate the chances of the far inferior Ukraine army sustaining its resistance for long.

3. After entering Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv on Sunday, Russian troops pulled back during the day, there, too, to await heavy weapons reinforcements before going after an all-out offensive to seize the city.

4. In the southeast, the Russian army Sunday night mounted an offensive on Zabrozhia on the Dnieper, while continuing its assault to take Mariupol on the Azov Sea.

5. Ukrainian forces repelled the Russian attack on the southern city of Kherson.

6. Military analysts evaluate the Russian generals’ objective as being to link the Russian forces occupying Zabrozhia and Mariupol for blockading Ukrainian army positions in the north and the west.

7. Large Russian reserve contingents are on standby in neighboring Belarus and estimated ready to push into Ukraine from the north and the east.

Hopes for a successful peace conference on Monday faded when Moscow, ahead of its first round of negotiations with Ukraine, slapped down a demand to discuss a comprehensive accord, while Kyiv insisted first on a ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian invasion force.

On the battlefield meanwhile, our military analysts note that neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians are offering a clear picture of the state of play. Reports emanating from Western capitals depict the Russian army as having been forced to halt its advance by shortages of fuel and food for the soldiers. This overstates the case, much like the claim that the Russian army was totally halted in its tracks by bold Ukrainian resistance.

What is really happening, it seems, is that Russian tacticians are now prioritizing operations for cutting off and blockading Ukrainian units before major operations to capture of the country’s main cities. They are intent now on weakening resistance to their advance and counting on Ukrainian forces to buckle before long against a hugely superior military force and resign themselves to guerilla operations.

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