Russian offensive in Ukraine: Why has Kyiv not fallen?

Kyiv has been bombed and plastered with missiles and attack drones everyday from day-1. Ukraine militarily is not as powerful as Russian army.

By Col Rajinder Singh (Retd)

Ukraine – Russian war has entered 17th day but Kyiv – the capital of Ukraine has not fallen to Russian troops. It may be noted that Kyiv has been under siege by Russian troops from Day -1 of the war. One should note that Russia has a strongest army with latest and state of the art weaponry. Its technological superiority is as good as the US military.

Kyiv has been bombed and plastered with missiles and attack drones everyday from day-1. Ukraine militarily is not as powerful as Russian army. Its army is a microdot in front of the brutal firepower of the Russian military. Inspite of all this, why has Kyiv not caved into Russian might?

The answer to this question is very simple. Firepower can cause extensive damage but the fall of a city is subject to two conditions. The first condition is willing / forced surrender by the enemy. In the case of Kyiv, it has not happened. The second condition is by clearance of each house / street of the city by its own troops. It is called FIBUA (Fighting In Built Up Area). This has not been attempted by Russia?

FIBUA needs special drills and procedures by trained soldiers. In other words, Russia needs ‘boots on the ground’ because it is the job of the Infantry. Tanks, drones and guns can assist but can not replace Infantry in a built-up area. FIBUA is not only time consuming but needs special skills and training. What more, a determined city – folk can cause heavy casualties. The lessons of Stalingrad and Saint Petersburg seizures by the German Army during the Second World War can not be forgotten by Russian military strategists.

Russian failure to physically assault Kyiv reflects upon its inability to have trained infantry soldiers to undertake this role. Perhaps, Russia and Putin had miscalculated that sheer weight of firepower would force Ukraine military to give in. But Ukraine’s military led by its determined president, Zelensky and supported by the West have withstood the onslaught. Zelensky and Citizens of Kyiv have shown willingness to engage Russian soldiers in the house to house fighting.

Kyiv has almost become a military fortress and residents are equipping themselves with improvised weapons such as, Molotov Cocktails, called petrol bombs, to incapacitate Russian armor. Roads and streets are being blocked and barricaded. Bridges over the River Dnieper have been demolished to blunt armor vehicles movement. The city is preparing itself to stall Russian attempts to engage in FIBUA.

How difficult is the job for Russia? It is known that the current population of Kyiv is around 3 million, say 4-5 lakhs less who might have left as refugees. But even 2.5 million in concrete buildings could be hard nuts to crack. Kyiv is spread over an area of ​​839 square Kms. It is like any of European Metros, is a jungle of concrete buildings, which provide effective defense potential to the defender. Add to this around 50,000 European volunteers, trained in the art of war, who have joined the resolute residents of Kyiv. Russian troops await a bloodbath if they attempt to get in.

Though Russia has encircled Kyiv, its firepower has not made Zelensky and his people give in. The only options available for Vladimir Putin is either to storm into Kyiv and be prepared for the heavy casualties or to arrive at a negotiated settlement as a face saving device. Second option will lead to political harakiri by Russian strongmen.

However the option of storming into Kyiv is fraught with danger of a long drawn war with heavy economic and socio-politico upheaval. What was worse was the non-availability of trained infantry to fight in the built-up area. It seems Russian military minds had not planned for it before venturing into an invasion. It is now learnt that Russia was hiring Syrian fighters to do the job of street fighting in Kyiv. Would it serve the purpose of quickly overcoming the resistance in Kyiv? It is doubtful but Russia is keeping the option open for itself.

One thing is clear. Putin has realized that it was not a cake walk as it thought it would be. Stern threats to western powers of adverse consequences have not helped much in achieving political and military objectives. How long the war would last depends on how fast either of the two belligerents blinks. Whatever and whenever the result comes, both nations would have suffered heavy economic damages.

Funny part of this war is that the USA and West would have achieved their aim of trim – sizing Russian might without firing a bullet. Russia was provoked to attack Ukraine by enticing Zelensky to join NATO. Russia also blames the USA for operating “Bio Labs” in Ukraine. Of course, all this is yet to be proven but it was a deliberate provocation for Russia. Unfortunately, the people of Kyiv in particular and Ukraine as a whole, pay the price for rivalry between two military giants.

Surprisingly, having prompted and enticed Ukraine West / USA is now watching the developments from the sidelines. The threat of sanctions on Russia has not deterred it. It is only the determination of the people of Ukraine and Kyiv that war has been stalemated. Is the world at the edge of a Nuclear Conflagration? It depends on Putin and the people of Kyiv.

(The author is a renowned author and a defense analyst. His bestselling books are on Kashmir- A Different Perspective and The ULFA Insurgency besides being a contribution on two other books. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).

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