A Russian state TV guest has denied claims made in the past by pundits and officials about the country’s plan to take control of Kyiv within three days, at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war.
In a video with English subtitles posted on Twitter by Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, a Russian TV guest is seen speaking about the information that circulated about the war when it began in February of last year including claims that Russia would take Kyiv in a matter of two or three days.
At the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, several Russian pundits and analysts, including prominent Russian propagandist and head of the RT channel, Margarita Simonyan, said that Russian troops would take Ukraine’s capital within a few days. Russian President Vladimir Putin was considering a strategy to encircle Kyiv earlier on in the war, but Ukrainian troops’ defense efforts meant the battle extended to other cities including Odesa, Kherson, and most recently, Bakhmut.
“We don’t have our own discourse, we don’t have our own narrative to fill our [information] space. And we are forced to react to what comes out there. And whatever they give, no matter how they discuss it, we can deny it here, we can demonstrate in a second that it’s not true… As the most trivial and such a vivid example to our viewers, during the early days of the special operation, who came up with this thesis that the Russians would capture Kyiv in three days? We have never said such a thing,” said the guest in the clip posted by Gerashchenko.
However, Gerashchenko compiled a number of clips added to the same video that showed several Russian pundits and analysts saying that Kyiv would fall quickly to Russia.
One of those clips showed Simonyan saying that in a “hot war, we would defeat Ukraine in two days.” In similar remarks, Simonyan has previously said that Russia “defeated Ukraine in the first two or three days.”
U.S. officials also noted at the time that Russia’s strategy was based on quickly taking the Ukrainian capital. On March 8, 2022, CIA Director William Burns told lawmakers that Putin’s plan was premised upon “seizing Kyiv within the first two days of the campaign.” U.S. intelligence assessed that the capital could fall right after the invasion.
Meanwhile, during the weeks leading up to the war which began on February 24, 2022, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said that Kyiv could fall within 72 hours in a full-scale invasion.
Three U.S. officials, who spoke anonymously to Newsweek last year, said that Moscow planned to encircle Ukrainian forces and make them surrender. The officials said that Russians at the time expected Kyiv to be taken within 96 hours, and then the leadership of Ukraine to follow in about a week’s time.
Russian state TV pundit Yulia Vityazeva recently denied Putin wanted to take Kyiv in three days at the beginning of the war, and said that if he “wanted to do it, we could have done it.”
“They [the United States] were saying that Ukraine’s main achievement is that Kyiv still hasn’t been taken in three days, as we promised, as was predicted by the American General Mark Milley,” Vityazeva said. “But in Ukraine, everyone preferred to forget the fact that these were the words of an American general. So, they’re all saying that we all planned to take Kyiv in three days. Let me repeat myself, if we had wanted to do it, we would have done it.”
Vityazeva added: “What’s more, we have all the capacity and resources to have done it just like the Americans took Fallujah. Why not? But our supreme commander-in-chief doesn’t want to. He doesn’t need that Pyrrhic victory. And we don’t either because we’ll be living there later.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has remained steadfast in his goal to defend his country as his troops continued to show stronger-than-expected counter-offensives against Russia. Ukraine’s defense response has been bolstered by Western aid that included advanced military equipment, tanks, and artillery.
Newsweek has reached out by email to the Russian foreign affairs ministry for comment.