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Kyiv is critical to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its new government, experts say


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Russian President Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine and plans to take over the capital of Kyiv and install his own government, experts told Fox News Digital.

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“The capital of Kyiv is critical,” said retired U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane, who serves as chairman of the Institute for the Study of War. “Putin’s political objective for this entire military campaign is regime change, and that brings in the capital city of Kyiv because that is the seat of government.”

President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Jan. 25, 2022. 

President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Jan. 25, 2022. 
(Associated Press)

Keane said Russian forces were en route to the capital from Belarus in the north. Russian troops have streamed into the country from the north, east and south as missiles and airstrikes rained down on cities and bases. Kyiv is approximately 230 miles from the Russian border.

University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Yoshiko Herrera agreed with Keane. 

‘Kyiv is key’

“Taking control of the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, is key to [Putin’s] plan,” said Herrera, an expert on U.S.-Russian relations. Given the opposition of the Ukrainian government and people, she said “the prospect of an insurgency or protracted struggle, unfortunately, seems likely.”

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Keane said it was unclear what form Putin’s control of Kyiv would take. Troops could enter the city or surround it and use special operation forces to target key government leaders and elites.

“That new government will likely be Ukrainian-led leaders who are pro-Russian similar to Viktor Yanukovych,” Keane told Fox News Digital.

A Ukrainian soldier passes by houses in the village of Novoluhanske, Luhansk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022.  

A Ukrainian soldier passes by houses in the village of Novoluhanske, Luhansk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022.  
(Associated Press)

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from power in 2014 after widespread protests over corruption and his desire to seek stronger ties with Russia instead of the European Union.

‘Back to Mother Russia’

Putin said his objective is not to occupy Ukraine but “demilitarize” the western-looking, democratic country that was a founding member of the former Soviet Union. Ukraine gained its independence in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Russian forces rolling into Kyiv will have a stunning psychological impact on the Ukrainian people, Keane said. 

“The capital is a symbol of their government, and now we’re going to see Russia’s military take it over,” he told Fox News Digital.

“This is mostly about bringing Ukraine back to Mother Russia that Putin believes was so wronged by making Ukraine an independent state,” he explained. “Putin sees this as his legacy. It’s very personal.”

Putin said on TV as the attack began that Russia needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists have been fighting for almost eight years.

A wounded woman is seen as airstrike damages an apartment complex outside of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2022.

A wounded woman is seen as airstrike damages an apartment complex outside of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2022.
(Getty Images)

The autocratic leader ominously warned other countries to back off, threatening that any interference would “lead to consequences you have never seen in history” in what many interpreted as a reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

Security buffer 

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who served as national security adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence, said Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is about security. He predicted that Putin would likely take Kyiv and the eastern third of Ukraine to create a security buffer for Russia.

Putin doesn’t want any nation that aspires to be part of the U.S.-led NATO alliance to border Russia. NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance intended to guarantee its members’ security through political and military means.

“We see NATO as a defensive alliance, Putin sees it as an encroaching offensive alliance,” Kellogg said. 

The organization has grown from 12 members to 30, and some of them were once part of the Soviet Union.

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Keane said that even if Russia captures Kyiv, the story isn’t over.

“I think Putin is underestimating the Ukrainian people,” Keane said. “The Ukrainian military will be defeated eventually, but the Ukrainian people aren’t going to be defeated, and that is a problem for Putin over time.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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