With each passing day since the start of the Russian offensive on Ukraine on February 24, the Russian army is approaching Kyiv, besieging the capital. Now, the fiercest battles are taking place northwest of the city, about 30 kilometers away. Amateur photos and Russian propaganda efforts shed light on Russia’s strategy to encircle the city.
One of the main goals of the Russian army was to encircle and capture the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Several hours after the conflict began on February 24, the Russians, unsuccessfully, targeted the nearby Hostomel airfield in a helicopter raid, aiming to capture the site for use as a foothold only 27 kilometers from the capital.
But near the same airport, northwest of Kyiv, the fighting is still fierce. On March 3, Ukrainian special forces filmed videos showing Russian soldiers killed and their tanks badly damaged. The videos were geolocated, confirming that they were filmed on the border between Hostomil and the city of Ebrin, 20 km from Kyiv.
In Irbin, Russian artillery fire killed at least four civilians trying to flee the military advance on Sunday, March 6. To delay the arrival of Russian troops, the Ukrainian army destroyed a bridge south of the city.
However, the Russian army is advancing. Sunday’s videos showed Russian soldiers escorting tanks west of Irvine (geolocation here). The video appears to have been filmed by a civilian hiding in an apartment building. In order to protect civilian identity, we are not sharing the video, only the whereabouts of Russian soldiers in town.
The location of Russian soldiers in Irbin, according to a video posted on March 6. © Google Maps Irbin is not the only city in sight of Russian forces, which are advancing even further west of the capital in order to encircle Kyiv. Air strikes, artillery fire and fighting have caused extensive damage in the area. Fires caused by battles can be seen on the NASA FIRMS instrument that tracks fires from satellites.
Fire outbreaks were discovered and collected by NASA between February 28 and March 3. © NASA Airlines The fighting also destroyed infrastructure in Bucha, a town near Irbin to the northwest of Kyiv. We received two videos from a Bucha resident named Katrina, who has since fled the city. She told us she received the videos from friends on March 3. We have validated the videos by checking their geolocation.
The videos show soldiers in the street and a large plume of smoke rising from downtown Bucha.
On the left, the video he submitted we saw, on the right, the same spot on Google Street View. © Observers / Google Street View Katrina told Jowharobservers why she had to leave her hometown:
Many of my family in Bucha are now without electricity, heating, gas and communications – they seem cut off from the whole world and have nowhere to turn for help. That is why my father and I had to leave Bucha so badly. Our house was dependent on electricity, without it there is no heating, no hot food and no water.
In the far north, the Russian army is waiting for the entry of Chechen fighters as reinforcements. Two propaganda videos were released on March 7 showing smiling Chechen aides, equipped with more advanced equipment than ordinary Russian soldiers. Thanks to a marker in one of the videos, we were able to locate it in the small town of Babintsy, 40 km northwest of Kyiv.
Troops, artillery and cruise missiles
Besides pushing troops forward west and northwest of Kyiv, the Russian army conducts artillery and cruise missile strikes.
Videos show the launch of multiple Russian rocket launchers towards Kyiv from about 50 kilometers east of the city.
The Russians are attacking the Ukrainian army from behind the civilian population. In the footage, you can see the bombing by MRLS “Hrad” recorded by our drone. The bombing took place directly from the village. pic.twitter.com/m2XSY4aNbs
– Повернись живим (BackAndAlive) March 6, 2022 Simultaneous launch of a missile from two Russian vehicles east of Kyiv (location: 50.497939, 31.259253), in a video posted on March 6, supposedly filmed the day before. Cruise missiles were launched towards Vinnytsia airport, 180 kilometers southwest of Kyiv, on March 6. Ukraine’s Kyiv Independent newspaper said these strikes destroyed the airport.
We were able to identify the Russian 3M-54 Kalibr missile in these videos.
On the left is one of the missiles heading towards the airfield, and on the right is an example of a Russian Kalibr missile. © @Alex93419575 / Observers While this attack took place far from the capital, it was part of an overall strategy of the Russian military to weaken the Ukrainian forces and descend on the capital. However, on the thirteenth day of the Russian offensive, Kyiv was still free.