The convoy of Russian tanks headed toward the capital was ambushed with precision artillery just as it passed through a small residential stretch of a paved four-lane road 25 kilometres from downtown Kyiv. Tanks can be seen erupting into black smoke upon being hit, while the tracks of one could be seen careering in an effort to maintain control. Muddy tracks show that some had entered the fields behind the houses, possibly in an effort to escape being hit.
Colonel Andrei Zakharov, commander of the tank regiment, was killed in the ambush, according to the Ukrainian defence ministry and intercepted Russian field radio chatter. The transmissions suggested the column suffered heavy losses.
The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine said that “during the fighting in the Brovary district of Kyiv region, the battalion tactical group of Russia’s 6th Panzer Regiment (Chebarkul) of the 90th Panzer Division of the Central Command suffered significant losses in personnel and equipment.”
Northwest of Kyiv in Borodyanka, several more tanks were advancing toward Kyiv but were also hit. Their locations indicate the Russians may have been attempting to surround the capital.
“Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces are committing an increased number of their deployed forces to encircle key cities. This will reduce the number of forces available to continue their advance and will further slow Russian progress,” Britain’s defence ministry said in an intelligence update posted on Twitter.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Thursday said about two million people — half the residents of the Ukrainian capital’s metropolitan area — have left the city, which has become a virtual fortress.
“Every street, every house … is being fortified,” he said in televised remarks and reported by The Associated Press . “Even people who in their lives never intended to change their clothes, now they are in uniform with machine guns in their hands.”
At least 3,000 people were evacuated from the northwest cities of Irpin and Vorzel and taken to Kyiv. On Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said about 18,000 people had managed to escape from the areas of the heaviest fighting outside of Kyiv, with more leaving by the day.
By late Thursday, Russian troops had yet to capture a city in the north or east but again advanced in the south. Western countries believe that after a planned lightning strike on Kyiv failed in the early days of the war, Moscow has turned its focus to tactics involving far more destructive assaults.
As his town suffered heavy Russian bombardment, Oleksandr Markushyn, mayor of the western Kyiv suburb of Irpin, with a population of 60,000, earlier this week got an offer that might have seemed rather tempting in the circumstances.
At around dinnertime on Monday, his phone beeped with a message from a Russian number. It said he could either fight on and be killed, or take a bribe and surrender.
“Dear Alexander, you have the opportunity to save life and health, and maybe improve your financial situation,” it read. “If you are interested in the offer, send a ‘plus’ sign in a response message. The validity of the message is 24 hours.”
It did not take Markushyn that long to make up his mind. Straight away, he replied with a “minus” sign — and a demand of his own.
“I am making a public counter-offer to the occupiers,” he said on his Telegram channel. “If you leave the territory of Irpin within 24 hours, you can save the lives of several thousand Russian conscript soldiers, whose beloved mothers, sisters, daughters and grandmothers are waiting at home.”