As invading Russian forces closed in on the outskirts of Kiev on the second night of the offensive, the night sky over the capital city was dramatically lit up by an explosion of some kind. Conflicting reports are still circulating about the nature of the blast; as with nearly everything else in the war so far, it is almost impossible to know the truth. Fighting has apparently begun in the capital, which Russian forces are hoping to encircle to force a surrender.
Multiple videos quickly surfaced after the explosion, though most Kiev residents remained unsure about what had just blown up over their city.
Debris could be seen falling over populated areas and it reportedly struck residential buildings; no one was killed but several injuries were acknowledged.
Initial rumors suggested that the object was either an intercepted missile or a Russian aircraft being shot down by Ukrainian air defense systems.
CNN was subsequently the first to report on statements from the Ukrainian government which said that the explosion was actually a Ukrainian SU-27 fighter shot down by Russian anti-air fire.
Even after this was announced, there were still suggestions that the aircraft was Ukrainian after all and that it had been mistakenly hit by other Ukrainians in a friendly fire incident.
The story as told by CNN remains the most likely; Kiev is well within the range of Russian air-defense systems deployed in neighboring Belarus and the Russians have firmly established their air superiority.
Whatever was shot down over Kyiv was pretty big pic.twitter.com/aV6a3VwPgX
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) February 25, 2022
Ukrainian capital threatened
Ukrainian officials who provided this explanation to CNN, however, said that the anti-air fire originated from the suburbs of Kiev, not Belarus.
This suggests that Russian forces on well on their way to encircling the capital, though it is difficult to say what their next move might be once that objective is complete.
Russian troops do not appear to be attempting to force their way into the major cities yet; Moscow is likely hoping to avoid bloody urban warfare if possible.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has already expressed some willingness to begin talks with Russia which would include a guarantee of Ukraine not joining NATO.
Threats of Ukraine joining the alliance or even trying to obtain nuclear weapons drastically increased tensions between the two countries, but Vladimir Putin may not be content with what Zelensky is offering at this point.
Now that he has already decided to gamble on an invasion and is capable of directly threatening the Ukrainian capital, the Russian president might feel no need to settle on terms while Zelensky’s government remains intact.