General David Petraeus, the former director of the American intelligence agency CIA, appeared on BBC Newsnight to update Brits about the Russian advancement into Ukraine. Speaking to Newsnight’s diplomatic editor Mark Urban, Mr Petraeus said: “I think the message from today, or the take away from today, is that if I was a Russian commander, I’m not sure I would be satisfied with what we have achieved.
“There was certainly much less shock and awe… and again what was achieved today was less than I expected.”
Mr Petraeus, who served in the US army for 37 years before being hired by Barack Obama in 2011, added: “It sounds as if… the Ukrainians have actually delayed them fairly impressively.”
However, he also claimed he expects the Russians to continue their onslaught into the night.
Petraeus said: “I expect to see a lot more tonight, with missiles and rockets and fixed-wing bombers but they can’t be that satisfied with today.”
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“This is going to be a much more difficult challenge than some Russians had thought.”
When pushed by Mr Urban about the danger facing Vladimir Putin, Petraeus added: “I don’t want to overdo this at all but what I do want to do is emphasise I am a little bit underwhelmed by what Russia has achieved on day one.”
Despite Mr Petraeus’ comments, officials warn Kiev could fall in a matter of days.
An ex-senior US intelligence officer told Newsweek: “After the air and artillery end and the ground war really starts, I think Kiev falls in just a few days.
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Responding to the reports, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the presidential office, said: “It is impossible to say the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe after a totally pointless attack by the Russians.”
Late last night, the White House’s press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Russian troops were believed to have taken staff hostage.
She said: “We are outraged by credible reports that Russian soldiers are currently holding the staff of the Chernobyl facilities hostage.
“This unlawful and dangerous hostage-taking, which could upend the routine civil service efforts required to maintain and protect the nuclear waste facilities, is obviously incredibly alarming and gravely concerning.
“We condemn it and we request their release.”