Even as Russia expanded its artillery, missile and bombing campaigns on Sunday, Russian and Ukrainian troops joined what appears to be a climactic battle in Kiev.
Mr Putin has shown a willingness in previous conflicts in Syria and Chechnya not only to bomb densely populated areas but also to use civilian casualties as leverage against his enemies. Senior US officials said a long and protracted battle with thousands of casualties on both sides could unfold in the coming weeks, as well as between the roughly 1.5 million residents remaining in the city.
War Between Russia and Ukraine: Important Things to Know
Russian and Ukrainian forces are now engaged in fierce street fighting in the suburbs around the capital, while Ukrainian forces ambushed the Russians with Javelin anti-tank missiles supplied by NATO and the United States.
There are many more Russian troops than the Ukrainian army and they could destroy them.
Lieutenant General Scott D. Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers last week there was a limit to how long Kiev could hold out as Russian forces from the east, north and south closed in and tightened the vise. . “With supplies being cut, things will get a little desperate in ten days to two weeks,” General Berrier said.
Another senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence assessments, said it could take up to two weeks for Russian forces to surround Kiev and then at least a month to seize it. That would require a combination of relentless bombardment and what could be weeks or months of door-to-door fighting.
“It will have a very high price in Russian blood,” said retired Admiral James G. Stavridis, the former Supreme Allied Commander for Europe. That high cost, he added, could lead Mr Putin to destroy the city with an onslaught of rockets, artillery and bombs — “continuing a series of war crimes like we have not seen in the 21st century.”
Giving up plan A and dividing the nation
The Russian attack has so far failed to achieve any of Mr Putin’s initial objectives. But on the battlefield, he’s closer to some targets than others.