Russia Strikes Western Ukraine As Infamous Convoy Repositions

Is the Russian offensive grinding to a halt? Or is this a calm before the storm?

That’s the question before us today, as Russian advances on Ukrainian territory have slowed dramatically over the past week.

To some, that’s of a piece with potential softening in Russian rhetoric around the war. The Kremlin’s spokesman didn’t mention the “denazification” of Ukraine as part of Russia’s war goals during a briefing this week, and Vladimir Putin himself said on Friday that he saw some “positive shifts” in Ukraine’s position. President Zelensky told ABC this week that he had “cooled off” on Ukraine joining NATO, a key Russian talking point.

Alternatively, everything may be about to get far, far worse.

Satellite imaging company Maxar released photos on Thursday suggesting that Russia had repositioned its infamously stalled convoy to launch artillery strikes on and storm Kyiv. The Kremlin launched missiles at far western Ukraine, while the White House warned that Russia may be about to deploy a chemical weapons attack. And while negotiations between Russia and Ukraine continue, it’s not clear that the Kremlin’s core goals have really changed. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed at talks in Turkey on Thursday that Russia “did not attack Ukraine.”

In either scenario, it seems that this stage of the conflict may be at an inflection point: is this a point from which we’ll see a big comedown? Or a prelude to something far, far worse?