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Tony Connelly says ground manoeuvres inevitable in Ukraine

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A Ukrainian police officer stands in front of a damaged residential block hit by an early morning missile strike on February 25, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

A Ukrainian police officer stands in front of a damaged residential block hit by an early morning missile strike on February 25, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

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Tony Connelly, RTÉ’s Europe editor, was brought up in Derry, just a few miles from the Border. Picture by Mark Condren

Tony Connelly, RTÉ’s Europe editor, was brought up in Derry, just a few miles from the Border. Picture by Mark Condren

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A Ukrainian police officer stands in front of a damaged residential block hit by an early morning missile strike on February 25, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Ground manoeuvres by Russia in Ukraine are “inevitable” over the course of another day of “fast-moving developments”, Europe editor for RTE Tony Connelly has said.

Mr Connelly, who grew up in Derry city, is on the ground in Kyiv and has described on social media the experience of being moved to the basement of his hotel there after hearing early-morning air raid sirens.

Speaking to RTE’s Good Morning Ulster programme on Friday, he said “all indications show that Russian advances are continuing, and they will now try and encircle the capital". 

“The president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that there were multiple strikes overnight, while also claiming that a Russian aircraft was shot down, but this has been contested by the Russians,” he said.

“There is a lot of fighting going on and lots of claims and counter claims are being made by both Russia and Ukraine, and it is difficult to know exactly what happened.”

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It comes as officials at Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Russia's military forces are targeting dozens of civilian sites.

"The Russians say they are not striking civilian objects, but 33 civilian sites have been hit over the last 24 hours," Vadym Denysenko told the Reuters news agency.

Russian forces have closed in on the capital Kyiv after rapidly advancing from multiple fronts in the north, east, and south of Ukraine since the invasion began on Thursday.

Mr Connelly said that Russia have clear “air superiority” over Ukraine.

“The assumption is with that air superiority the Russians will start ground manoeuvres and push ahead more with tanks towards the capital,” he said.

“At one point a fierce battle broke out at a military airport in Hostomel to the west of Kyiv involving Russian paratroopers and helicopter attacks.

“For a period Russia appeared to have captured airport as a staging post to bring troops in to move on capital but Ukrainians have since said they have taken back airport,” he added.

“Most these claims and counter-claims, however, cannot be verified independently.”

The journalist said that the mood in Ukraine at present is one of “increasing tension and anxiety”.

“People are spending the night underground in the metro system in Kyiv and heavy traffic seen yesterday of people leaving towards the west is likely to continue today,” he said.

“Clearly if fighting is getting closer to capital it might make people think twice about leaving and instead stay indoors or in their shelters.”

In military terms, he said that it is clear that Ukraine is not going to receive any military intervention from the west but that this “sense of abandonment” is understandable.

“In less than 24 hours Russia has advanced right across the country,” he said.

“There has been really heavy bombardment of key cities and tank columns moving in from the north and east and south and I don’t think the government in Kyiv think that the west would voluntarily fight un Ukraine for Ukraine.

“The most that has been offered is sanctions and arms sales but has not been enough to deter Vladimir Putin and certainly not enough to avoid this invasion,” he added.

“It seems clear Vladimir Putin, from what he has said and written, wants the complete subjugation of Ukraine and wants to completely crush its independence and its ambitions towards being a western European type democracy.”


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