Kyiv is the ultimate prize for Russia: the heart of Ukraine, and the seat of a government it has sought to replace. For weeks, Russian troops have pressed in on the city from both sides of the Dnipro River.
But the bigger the city, the more difficult it is to seize. And Kyiv is enormous — larger in land area than New York City, and five times the size of Mariupol, which Russian troops have been trying to capture for weeks.
Russia vastly underestimated Ukrainians’ resolve to defend their homeland. And a Russian military trained for open spaces has also struggled with basic realities of urban warfare. Even a finely orchestrated military would be challenged by the block-to-block fighting required to secure Kyiv. The Russian army has failed to even surround it.
Among the biggest surprises of the battle is that the Russian military has never fully controlled the airspace over the capital.
Ukrainian forces concentrated their air defenses in the city, and they used the urban terrain to provide cover, said Michael Kofman, research program director in the Russia Studies Program at CNA. The Russian Air Force has been mysteriously absent, he said.
“It became, in some ways, mutually denied airspace,” Mr. Kofman said.
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