Russia Trying to Seize Kyiv and Replace Ukraine’s Leaders, NATO Officials Warn

Russian forces will encircle Ukraine's capital, seize government buildings and topple Ukraine's government, three NATO officials told VICE World News.
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A Ukrainian police officer stands before a residential block in Kyiv hit by a Russian missile strike. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Russian troops backed by tanks, heavy artillery and air support will encircle Kyiv, and try to seize government buildings and officials and replace Ukraine’s government with a Russian-controlled puppet, three NATO officials briefed on Russian plans by Western intelligence told VICE World News. 

Russian tanks have been spotted on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin unleashed thousands of Russian troops on Ukraine with what looks like an ultimate goal of removing its pro-Western government and replacing it with a Moscow-friendly alternative. 

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Ukrainian forces have doggedly confronted Russian forces at various points along the huge shared borders with Russia and Belarus, but by Tuesday Russian troops were seen in Kyiv, gunfire was breaking out around key government buildings, and footage of what appears to be Russian special operations forces conducting raids on targets around Kyiv were shared on social media. 

“They tried a dramatic operation [at Gostomel air base near Kyiv] yesterday in order to try and establish a base from which to conduct SF strikes against their main targets: The democratically elected government of Ukraine,” said one NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Now it appears that [operation] partially failed but the armoured units that crossed from Belarus are close enough to Kyiv, if not already inside the suburbs, for them to move to the next step.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an early-morning televised address Friday in which he said at least 137 Ukraniains had died in the first day of fighting. He said that he and his family were targets number one and two for Moscow. 

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Another NATO official told VICE World News that Russian troops were trying to contain the Ukrainian army along the eastern frontline with Russian-backed separatist rebels as they expanded across the country.

“It was less violent than some feared on Thursday because the Russians were mostly trying to keep most of the Ukrainian army pinned along there, so they can use their armour to flank them, and that's what's happened, more or less,” said the official.  

“Putin’s next phase will be: Take control of government buildings and arrest or capture some officials, as high-ranking as possible, to force a new government using special operations forces that have been specifically training for this operation,” the official added. “We know the script and it keeps playing out as written.”  

But with Ukrainian officials offering weapons and instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails to civilians willing to resist, the Russians might experience much tougher going if the Ukrainians are willing to fight building to building in the capital.

“Putin wants a fast end to this so he can tell Russia the problem was fixed with a new government and minimal attacks on the Ukrainian brothers, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t willing to go slow. He’s willing to besiege and shell Kyiv to the end, but today he’s trying to avoid it.”