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As Vladimir Putin claims the Russian offensive in Ukraine is "going according to plan", concerns are growing about his intentions for a 64-kilometre convoy of military trucks and personnel outside the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
On Thursday, US intelligence suggested the convoy was stalled after days of remaining stationary.
"They are not moving at any rate that would lead one to believe they’ve solved their problems. So we would characterise it as stalled," a senior US defence official told reporters.
But speculation is growing that an estimated 15,000 troops attached to the convoy are preparing to execute a destructive plan in the nation's capital.
ABC's veteran foreign correspondent Michael Brissenden weighed in on the speculation of their next move, offering a grim possibility.
"They are having supply problems as we understand and they have also been hit quite a bit according to some reports," he said Thursday.
"But it suggests the Russians are going to potentially lay siege to Kyiv and circulate with this convoy and starve them out."
The possibility of such tactics – blockading the city while allowing safe passage for some before tightening the vice – "that may be part of the equation," says ANU professor in Intelligence Studies and International Security, John Blaxland.
The symbolic importance of the capital is at the heart of Vladimir Putin's main objective.
"What's becoming crystal clear now is the intention is to remove the Zelensky government, so that's the vocal point," Prof Blaxland told Yahoo News Australia.
"It will be about making sure they identify where he and his inner circle are located and deal with them and then set up a puppet government."
Putin will want to control the city for a while, Prof Blaxland said, "to allow that puppet government to take over".
For now, he believes the convoy is reloading with fuel and supplies in order to launch an assault without the reported failures seen during the first week of the invasion when some vehicles were left stranded.
"They're realising that to do this properly they actually need to get everything in position right, because they realise they're not going to be well received when they get there, so they can't turn up in drips and drabs," Prof Blaxland said.
"They've got to have the right provisions – fuel, food and supplies – to sustain the operation."
Olena Shabunina: I don't have a photo of "farewell" - I was not able to say goodbye to my husband. Like a lot of Ukrainian women, I had to take out my children and parents. Here is a terrible feeling of guilt inside that my friends are there in Kyiv and I am safe here. pic.twitter.com/tQZnhEM0yA
— Oleksandra Matviichuk (@avalaina) March 3, 2022
Russia claims invasion going 'according to plan'
In failed attempts at negotiation talks, the Kremlin has made clear its goals include the demilitarisation and neutrality of Ukraine.
Any attempts by Ukraine to delay negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials would result in officials in Moscow adding more items to a list of demands it has already set out, it said.
"Vladimir Putin outlined in detail the fundamental approaches and conditions in the context of negotiations with representatives of Kyiv. It was confirmed that, first of all, we are talking about the demilitarisation and neutral status of Ukraine, so that a threat to the Russian Federation will never emanate from its territory," the statement said.
"It was emphasised that the tasks of the special military operation will be fulfilled in any event, and attempts to gain time by dragging out negotiations will only lead to additional demands on Kiev in our negotiating position."
The statement said Russia's "special operation" in Ukraine was going "according to plan".
It said reports that Russian forces were bombarding Kyiv were part of an "anti-Russia disinformation campaign" and that Russian forces were doing all they could to protect civilians.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation" that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour's military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.
The videos from Chernihiv this evening seem an extreme escalation even by the standards of this hideous Russian campaign - suggest the Aleppo option for Ukrainian cities is very much on the table: pic.twitter.com/39RIdCHwYE
— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) March 3, 2022
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