Small Wars Journal

Victory in the Battle of Kyiv: A Story of Ukrainian Resilience and Strategy

Tue, 02/21/2023 - 5:11pm

Victory in the Battle of Kyiv: A Story of Ukrainian Resilience and Strategy

By Daniel Rice

The Battle of Kyiv is a story of Ukrainian resilience and strategic prowess, and a remarkable victory against a larger and better-equipped enemy. Sun Tzu famously wrote that "most battles are won before they are fought," and this was certainly the case in Kyiv. Despite being outnumbered and under-equipped, the Ukrainian Armed Forces emerged victorious, thanks to better leader development, leadership, strategy, and training.

As we approach the one-year anniversary, the world will remember the illegal Russian invasion, which began on February 24th, 2022, with bombings and the crossing of borders. However, it was two days earlier, on 2/22/22, when Ukrainian General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi began moving his army under cover of darkness. The US had already detected a large buildup of Russian troops near the border and warned the world of an imminent invasion.

In my exclusive interview with General Zaluzhnyi on May 5th, 2022, he recounted how the Ukrainian army had positioned itself in ambush sites along all major invasion routes by midnight on February 22nd. When the Russians attacked on February 24th, they mostly encountered empty Ukrainian bases. Unbeknownst to them, they were walking into a massive ambush. Due to the muddy conditions of February, the Russian armored columns were forced to travel on known routes and were exposed to Ukrainian anti-tank and artillery forces.

General Zaluzhnyi and his army were well-prepared for this battle. They even taunted the Russians on social media and on bridges leading to Kyiv, with messages written in fluent Russian saying, "Welcome to HELL!" The Russian soldiers, who had looted, raped and murdered their way across Ukrainian cities, were largely killed or wounded in the ambush.