A 40-mile-long (64km) Russian military convoy, composed of tanks, armored vehicles and towed artillery, has sparked dread among defending Ukrainians as it lumbered towards their capital, Kyiv.
The column has been stalled for a week, but now the forces appear to be regrouping, according to Maxar Technologies satellite imagery taken on Thursday, which showed parts of the convoy had “largely dispersed and redeployed.”
Russia is regrouping for a possible attack on Kyiv, say UK defense officials, after initially making limited progress in its advancement towards the capital.
An intelligence update published by the UK’s Ministry of Defence on Friday said Russia “is likely seeking to reset and re-posture its forces for renewed offensive activity in the coming days” and it would likely “include operations against the capital Kyiv.”
With the clouds temporarily clearing around the Ukrainian capital, Maxar said the satellite images show some elements of the convoy have “repositioned” into forests and treelined areas near Lubyanka, Ukraine. The images were taken at 11:37 a.m. local time (4.37 a.m. ET) on Thursday.
According to the satellite imagery, Russian military vehicles are seen sitting on roadways in residential areas in the town of Ozera – 17 miles northwest of Kyiv and just north of the Russian-controlled Antonov Airbase in Hostomel.
Towed artillery and other vehicles are seen taking cover in sparse patches of trees near Lubyanka – about 3 miles (northwest of the Antonov Airbase.
In Berestyanka – 10 miles west of the airbase – a number of fuel trucks and what Maxar says appear to be multiple rocket launchers are seen positioned in a field near trees.
The satellite images taken on Thursday appear to also show fuel storage tanks on fire at the airbase, with a thick black plume of smoke seen rising from the tanks, located at the southern end of the airbase.
Hostomel’s airbase has been the site of intense clashes with Ukrainian forces since the start of Russia’s invasion. It was reportedly captured by the Russian military on February 24.
At the end of what was the convoy, a number of trucks and equipment are still seen on the roadway southeast of Ivankiv.
Satellite images from Maxar also show significant damage to parts of the northern city of Chernihiv and the northwest suburbs of Kyiv.
In Borodyanka, a series of apartment buildings is seen demolished. CNN has previously reported that these apartment buildings were damaged by Russian military strikes.
Just outside of Kyiv’s city limits in Stoyanka, a warehouse is seen in a satellite image completely gutted by fire.
In the city of Chernihiv, roughly 80 miles northeast of Kyiv, the Epicenter K supermarket is also destroyed by fire. The charred remains of the building is seen; there is no more roof.
A fire is also seen burning in one of Chernihiv’s industrial districts, located on its south side.
Ukrainians successfully intercepted and attacked an advancing Russian tank column on Thursday as fighting picked up around Kyiv’s northeast and east
An overnight airstrike in the Brovary district, just east of the capital, caused no casualties, according to Kyiv authorities.
Ukrainian authorities report a missile strike in the town of Baryshivka overnight some 45 miles east of the capital.
“According to preliminary information, the Iskander missile caused significant damage to infrastructure and housing. 60 apartment houses were completely damaged, 4 apartment buildings and 10 private houses were partially damaged,” they said.
Thomas Bullock, an analyst at Janes, a UK-based intelligence service, told CNN that “Ukraine’s tactic of targeting supply lines has worked well especially during the first five-10 days of the war. This was partially down to Ukrainian tactics and partially down to how Russia was operating.”
The Russian forces “prioritized rushing forward to secure objectives quickly” in the first couple days of the invasion. This meant “they weren’t advancing as a coherent frontline securing territory as they go. This effectively allowed Ukrainian forces to slip behind Russia’s advanced mechanized units and attack logistics columns traveling on unsecured roads in the rear.”
But as “Russia begins to reorient its forces for a longer war following their failure to secure a quick victory” it is “unclear how effective this tactic will be,” Bullock added.
The British Ministry of Defense update added that logistical issues continue to hamper the Russian advance “as does strong Ukrainian resistance.”
French armed forces spokesperson Pascal Ianni reiterated the UK assessment on Friday, saying the Russian army was poorly prepared for its invasion of Ukraine and is now facing many difficulties on the ground, “particularly in the logistical field and in the field of intelligence,” he told French TV station France2.
“It is possible that an attack on Kyiv will be carried out in the next few days, but actually taking control of Kyiv is a whole other matter and will take a long, long time,” he said.
The convoy is believed to have entered Ukraine via Belarus, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and where Russia moved huge numbers of troops to in recent weeks to carry out what they called joint exercises. When the exercises ended, the troops didn’t leave and satellite images actually showed that Russia increased their military presence in the country.