A massive convoy of Russian ground forces is wending its way closer to Kyiv, drawing within 20 miles of the center of the Ukrainian capital Monday, satellite images showed.
On Sunday, Maxar released images that showed the same group of Russian forces roughly 40 miles from the capital. The company’s analysts estimated then that the convoy was about three miles long but revised their assessment dramatically upward one day later, noting that cloud cover interfered with initial projections.
The convoy cuts a menacing figure through the countryside near Kyiv, but Ukrainian troops remained defiant Monday after weathering the most intense shelling since the invasion began, in the eastern city of Kharkiv.
The images come amid questions over whether Russian forces will use siege tactics against Kyiv, encircling the city, cutting off supplies and escape routes, and then moving in.
Russia is attempting to surround Kyiv, a senior U.S. defense official told The Washington Post on Monday, adding that Moscow has used siege tactics elsewhere in Ukraine, including in the northern city of Chernihiv and Kharkiv in the northeast. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.
The possibility of such an attack on the capital city of nearly 3 million people adds to concerns that the death toll could increase significantly in the coming days. House lawmakers briefed Monday by senior Biden administration officials were told Ukraine has suffered 1,500 civilian and military casualties, according to two people in the briefing. It was unclear whether the count referred only to fatalities or included injuries. “It’s likely going to be very significant loss of life,” said Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), who was born and raised in Ukraine.
Still, questions remain over what could happen should Russia take control of the country. “In the long run,” Spartz said, “Ukrainians are not going to surrender. Ukrainians are just not going to submit.”
At some points in the convoy, vehicles appear to be spaced many yards apart; elsewhere, they’re traveling two or three abreast. In some images, burning buildings can be seen near the road outside of Ivankiv, a settlement northwest of Kyiv.
Additional images, taken from the sky above southern Belarus, show more ground force deployments and attack helicopter units, Maxar reported. All were spotted less than 20 miles from Belarus’s border with Ukraine.
Ahead of its invasion, it was estimated that Russia massed more than 150,000 troops around Ukraine, with a majority of them now believed to be committed to the fight.
Dan Lamothe, Jacqueline Alemany, John Hudson, Marianna Sotomayor and Bryan Pietsch contributed to this report.
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