Russia, Ukraine, Kremlin, Kyiv, KremlinThis handout satellite photo released by Planet Labs PBC shows a explosion at Chuhuiv Airbase outside of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022
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Russia has “eliminated” Ukraine’s air defences and is looking to mass overwhelming forces around the capital Kyiv, a senior Western intelligence officer said Thursday.

He spoke as Russian land forces sought to push deeper into the neighbouring country after launching an invasion with a barrage of pre-dawn air strikes on key military facilities.

“The Ukrainians do not have sufficient air defence to deal with this kind of air campaign. Those air defences are now effectively eliminated. They no longer have an air force to fly and protect themselves,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“Essentially the Russians now have complete air superiority over Ukraine.”

The official said Ukrainian forces were putting up stiff resistance in the face of a multi-pronged attack from the Russian military — especially around the city of Kharkiv and along the eastern frontline.

But the Kremlin’s forces had managed to capture key airfields around Kyiv and could look to funnel troops through these footholds that would eventually link up with troops heading south from Belarus.

“A lot will depend on the resistance that the Ukrainians can put up, but I’m confident that the Russians will in the coming hours seek to apply an overwhelming force on the capital,” the official said.

He said intelligence suggested Russia would look to remove the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky “either through ‘decapitation’ or through other pressure”.

There are also indications the Kremlin intends to carry out a “liquidation” campaign against political opponents left in the city.

“We should be very concerned about the potential for very large violence in that city as the Russians take control.”

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