Andrew Neil outlines key role China played in Russian convoy not making it to Kyiv

Ukraine: Joe Biden agrees Putin is a ‘war criminal’

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Since February 24, Russian forces have circled Kyiv and fired missiles at the Ukrainian capital. However, despite think tanks suggesting the capital would have been taken in days, Russian forces have so far only been able to muster local attacks. Mr Neil, former GB News host and editor of the Spectator, tweeted that Russia has been unable to invade the capital as they rely on Chinese vehicles which have been unused until the war.

He said: “One of the reasons the huge Russian convoy was stuck outside Kiev was that China supplied the tyres for the vehicles.

“The vehicles themselves had been in storage for ages, the tyres had very thin walls and blew out in the cold.”

On March 6, Karl Muth, an academic based at the University of Chicago, took to Twitter and also blamed cheap Chinese tyres for the slow advance of Russian vehicles.

He said: “This is a tyre I first encountered in Somalia and Sudan. It’s a bad Chinese copy of the excellent Michelin XZL military tyre design.”

The Institute of the Study of War, a US thinktank tracking the Ukraine invasion, said Russian forces were “likely unable to complete the encirclement of Kyiv or resume mobile offensive operations in north-eastern Ukraine in the near future”.

Russian forces have appeared to have been unable to cross the Irpin River, which runs along the western edge of Kyiv.

As of Thursday, Russian forces remain 20km or more from the city centre, ruling out the use of short-range artillery as they have used against the eastern cities of Mariupol and Kharkiv.

Experts have also suggested Kyiv remains in Ukrainian control as footage from the capital showed the effort to defend the city centre with military reservists, volunteer soldiers who are former journalists, lawyers and prosecutors, guarding defences built out of sandbags.

Mr Neil also said on Wednesday British and American intelligence “estimates that Russia has lost more of all kinds of vehicles and aircraft than Ukraine at a ratio of around 4:1”.

He said in a Twitter thread: “This a consequence of allies (mainly US and UK) equipping and training a guerrilla army. Russian military thought they were simply sending a bunch of heavy armour into a friendly nation.

“So the level of Ukrainian resistance came as a shock. So did the terrible performance of the Russians. They have been unable to operate as a combined military force with appalling command and control, unencrypted communications and dreadful leadership.

“Perfect illustration of what happens when a despotic regime sends conscripts into war.

“Before invasion, US/UK intel intercepted communications between tank commanders and other officers querying whether they were actually expected to go to war with a bunch of conscripts.

“The basic answer they got back was that it’s going to be a cakewalk so don’t worry about it.

“The conscripts themselves were told only that they were on a big exercise and it came as a demoralising shock to discover that they were going into a foreign country to kill people.”

The Ministry of Defence has shared its daily intelligence update on Thursday, saying the Russian invasion of Ukraine has “largely stalled on all fronts”.

They also said: “Russian forces have made minimal progress on land, sea or air in recent days and they continue to suffer heavy losses.

“Ukrainian resistance remains staunch and well-coordinated.

“The vast majority of Ukrainian territory, including all major cities, remains in Ukrainian hands.”

It comes after Russian forces bombed a theatre in Mariupol on Wednesday, March 16, which sheltered more than a thousand people including children.

Foreign ministry officials said civilians were buried under rubble after the attack on Mariupol.

Continued shelling is preventing them from assessing the number of casualties.

President Volodomyr Zelensky said: “Russian aircraft purposefully dropped a huge bomb on the drama theatre in the city centre.

“Hundreds of people were hiding from the shelling there… The building was destroyed. The death toll is still unknown.”

The city’s mayor Vadim Boychenko said: “We will never forgive this.”

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