Experts: Russia not strong enough to take Kyiv

Col.  Margo Grosberg
Col. Margo Grosberg Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Russia's military does not have the strength to conquer Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, two Estonian military experts say. The invasion has stalled outside the capital, nearly three weeks after it started, with issues dogging the invaders including a shortage of personnel.

Aside from the shelling of an apartment building in Kyiv on Monday morning, Ukraine's capital has been relatively quiet following the attempt to enter the city from the west five days ago, Col. Margo Grosberg, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) intelligence service (Luurekeskus) says.

Russian forces have since then been engaged in replacing front-line units with those in reserve, and re-stocking fuel and ammunition, Grosberg added.

As to Russia's designs on Kyiv, Grosberg said: "We continue to think that the minimal goal is to surround this city."

"As a result, as with the [World War Two] siege of Leningrad, this would aim to bring the city to its knees, from the president, to the Ukrainian resistance fighters.

However, Grosberg added: "Kyiv is such a big city that that would probably not be enough to conquer it with the units which have been brought to Ukraine's borders."

Indrek Kannik, director of the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS), said he did not see the possibility for Russia to decide to engage in the bombardment of Kyiv on the scale as has happened with Mariupol.

Kannik said: "In the case of Kyiv, the Russians do not have that opportunity at the moment. They are not close enough to the city to attack the center with artillery fire, and the Russians do not have enough precision missiles, while the Ukrainian air defense in Kyiv has been pretty good."

Indrek Kannik. Source: ERR

This is complicated by a shortage of personnel to conduct the attack, he added.

"It is estimated that there are an around 30,000 to 50,000 Russian troops close to Kyiv. The capital is a city of four million, with more than two million inhabitants still remaining. There are clearly more than 50,000 defenders of Kyiv, then, so this not enough for Russia to carry out the attack."

The scarcity of manpower means attempts are being made to assemble reinforcement units from various places, including Syria, where 16,000 volunteers have so far joined up, according to reports.

Col. Grosberg said that, even if this were to be the case, it would not amount to a significant force as it has not been integrated into the Russian units and its personnel generally do not speak Russian.

Of other military sources, Grosberg said: "It is also known that a Russian armed forces base in Armenia is also being disassembled, to be removed from there. The peacekeeping contingent in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was there after the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. is also trying to assemble a unit."

The Russian military is also offering inducements such as a yearly contract, rather than the longer contracts offered previously, to attract potential soldiers.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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