Russia appears to be advancing in its invasion of Ukraine with satellite imagery indicating that a huge convoy — some 40 miles or 65 kilometers long — of Russian military vehicles is heading toward Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.
The following satellite image was taken by U.S firm Maxar Technologies on Monday and appears to show a convoy of Russian armored tanks and trucks that stretches from Pybirsk, further north of Kyiv, to the Antonov airport (also known as the Hostemel airport — the site of fighting last week between Russian and Ukrainian forces) on the northeast outskirts of the Ukrainian capital.
In some parts of the convoy the vehicles are traveling three or four abreast on the road, although in other images the vehicles are seen further apart, in single file. The distance along the road is approximately 40 miles.
It should be noted that the situation in Ukraine is fast-moving and may now may be different to what is seen in these images, which show the convoy on Sunday and Monday.
The following two images were taken by Maxar Technologies on Sunday. At this point, the convoy does not appear to cover as large an area and cloud cover precludes a complete view of the area.
Official sources have not confirmed the existence of the convoy, but there are fears it suggests that Russia is preparing to launch a full-scale assault on Kyiv, a city it has not yet occupied although there have been skirmishes on the outskirts.
Other images from Maxar suggest additional military activity in southern Belarus, which borders Ukraine and is an ally of Russia, with ground forces and ground-attack helicopter units seen in the images. Again, official sources have not confirmed whether these units — or Belarus more broadly — is preparing to join Russian forces in an assault on Ukraine.
Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko repeated on Tuesday that his country has no plans to join the incursion, according to state news agency Belta.
Will Ukraine surrender?
Russia began its invasion of Ukraine last Thursday and its forces have attacked various cities and areas in the north, east and south of the country. However, analysts have suggested that Russia had made slower progress in its advance into the country, and had met more resistance, than it had expected.
If Russia is about to launch a much harder assault on the capital Kyiv, however, how Ukraine’s armed forces and civilian resistance will cope is much more uncertain.
The Pentagon has noted that the Kremlin still wants its troops to capture Kyiv, despite the stiff Ukrainian resistance.
“We have every indication that they still want to take Kyiv, that they are advancing on the ground and trying to get closer,” a senior Defense official told CNBC on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to share new details from the Pentagon’s assessment.
Separately, analysts at Teneo Intelligence concluded on Monday that “the Kremlin appears to be committed to eliminate Ukraine’s political leadership, while the movement of Russian military forces suggests preparations for new, likely heavier, military action against the capital Kyiv and other key cities in the coming days.”
The U.K.’s Defense Ministry casts a more sober glance over Russia’s progress, however, tweeting on Monday in their intelligence update that
Peace talks were held between Russian and Ukrainian delegates on Monday, in neighboring Belarus, and although no breakthrough was reached, there are hopes that talks will continue in the coming days.
For its part, Ukraine has vowed that it will not surrender to Russia and has demanded an immediate cease-fire and that Russian forces leave its territory.
“Ukraine is ready to continue seeking a diplomatic solution, but Ukraine is not ready to surrender or capitulate,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Monday.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had already struck a pessimistic tone over the outcome of talks, and Kuleba told CNBC he did not know whether the talks would be successful.
“I’m a diplomat, I have to believe in the success of talks, but at the same time my main goal as a diplomat now is to impose more sanctions on Russia, to bring more weapons to Ukraine and to isolate Russia as much as we can in the international arena so I’m focused on this part of diplomacy,” Kuleba said
“We stand not only for ourselves but for the world order as we all know it.”
The foreign minister said that “every 24 hours are crucial, because Russia deploys more and more military might on Ukraine, hundreds of tanks moving into the country, they dominate the skies with their bombers, rockets, missiles are being thrown on our peaceful cities, civilians being killed, but we continue fighting.”
He said the war had turned into a “real people’s war against Russian aggression.”
Russia has already conducted attacks both on the ground and by air, with major cities reporting shelling and damage to buildings. Both sides have said that some of their soldiers have been killed, and Ukraine has reported that several hundred of its citizens have died during Russian attacks, including a number of children.
The invasion has led to a huge number of Ukrainians attempting to flee the country for safety in Eastern Europe, although many have also stayed to defend their homes and nation.
– CNBC’s Amanda Macias contributed reporting to this story.