On the eve of the offensive, some US officials predicted Kyiv would fall within 48 to 72 hours of hostilities beginning. Yet the blue-and-yellow flag of Ukraine still hangs from its buildings. There was glib talk of the Ukrainian state being “decapitated;” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky still proclaims defiance.
If, as Putin asserted, Ukraine was not a real country, it would surely have collapsed by now. But even with 150,000 Russian troops inside its borders, according to US assessments, they control at most about 10% of Ukraine.
Traveling around Ukraine in the three weeks before the invasion, it seemed many people were in denial. “We are certain there will be no war,” was the refrain – in Mariupol, Zaporizhzia and Kyiv. The Ukrainian government also played down the build-up of Russian forces, anxious not to panic its citizens and the markets.
Then, on February 24, it was as if a switch had been flicked. Overnight, denial became defiance.
Now the refrain is: “I’m going to war. It’s my land.”
Serious defenses and countless checkpoints have popped up around Kyiv. Ukrainian forces – to the surprise of many observers – have been nimble and effective against Russian armor that has struggled to make progress. Small, mobile units that know the territory have cut down Russian convoys. The anti-tank weapons acquired mainly from the US and UK have left smoking hulks on roads across the country. Turkish-made