The Russian army is 13 miles from my rather fancy Airbnb flat on Khreshchatyk, Kyiv’s main thoroughfare, where I am typing this. The hot tub doesn’t work, but there is a war on. Every now and then the air raid sirens howl and artillery crumps sound; however, the last time I felt incoming through my boots was three days ago. The electricity is still on, the internet is still on, and I still wear my neon-orange, lucky beanie around the city. I am not a complete idiot: The hat gets me through Ukrainian National Guard checkpoints quickly. But more significantly, 22 days into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war, there are no Russian tanks on Khreshchatyk or anything like it. And that means the Kremlin’s blitzkrieg on Kyiv has gone to hell in a handbasket.
I know the Russians are out there, a long day’s walk from here. Last week my pal and fellow New Lines contributor Oz Katerji chanced his arm beyond the last Ukrainian checkpoint and came close to being nabbed by the Russian army at Irpin, a small satellite town northwest of Kyiv. He reversed and got back to safety. Four days ago, the Russians killed a U.S. reporter, Brent Renaud. Three days ago, a mortar round killed Irish videographer Pierre Zakrzewski and his Ukrainian producer, Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, and injured reporter Ben Hall. All three worked for Fox News. The network initially downplayed Sasha’s death until a roar of disgust from the war-reporting community pushed Fox to get its act together. Deputy heads will roll.
The constant traffic jams, as cars packed with anxious parents and traumatized kids roll into Kyiv from occupied territory, are another clear sign that the Russians are still out there.
But for now at least, the Russian army is not moving any closer, and that makes me suspect that the fighting may have reached a tipping point, faster than people can imagine, against Putin’s killing machine. Fundamentally, the Russian army has turned out to be lacking, frankly, and there are three major reasons for this: poor morale, corruption and bad leadership. [Continue reading…]