KYIV, Ukraine — Inside the offices of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, a digital map of Ukraine was lit up Tuesday with missile trajectories from its latest bombardment. Russia.
Oleksiy Danilov, the council’s head, sat behind his desk looking at the series of lines that lit up on his computer screen as he reviewed the strikes of the past week, then last month, then last year. In a country twice the size of Italy, there is hardly a nook and cranny that goes without a strike.
“Every one means more destruction and potentially more loss of life,” he said. Over the past week, on-screen data also shows a noticeable increase in the number of people moving to the capital, Kyiv. The data on the map is compiled by the Ukrainian military and has not been independently verified.
Mr. Danilov said he had no doubt that Moscow wanted to deal a fatal blow to the capital and hit the government headquarters.
But he also attributed the recent rise in attacks on the capital to the time of year. On Tuesday, Moscow celebrates Victory DayThe national holiday marking the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Soviet Union has been turned by Moscow into an annual celebration of the country’s military might.
Like other senior Ukrainian officials, Mr. Danilov will not be drawn into speculation about when, where and how Ukraine will launch missiles. the long-foretold counterattack meant to break through Russian lines.
“If someone tells you he knows when and in what direction the counterattack will begin,” he said, “make sure he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
When asked about recent orders issued by the Russian occupation authorities to people leave the towns and cities on the front lineshe smiled.
“I would advise them to evacuate our territory as soon as possible,” he said, urging people to leave. “Including Crimea – while the bridge is still operational,” he added, referring to the Kerch Strait Bridge, a vital lifeline connecting Russia with Crimea, a peninsula that Russia illegally seized in 2014, capital is was attacked and badly damaged last year.
But Mr. Danilov’s apparent confidence in Ukraine’s eventual victory and anger at the Kremlin is underpinned by a deep sadness.
“I’m getting emotional now,” he said when asked how he’s changed over the past 15 months. “My two children are in Germany. Recently, they performed in a concert to raise money to buy an ambulance for a hospital in Ukraine. When I think about what Putin is doing with Ukraine – that children have to raise money for ambulances – and how many children he has killed and injured, it makes me cry.”
In numerous interviews throughout the war, Mr. Danilov often spoke of his belief that Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, would eventually lead to the disintegration of the Russian Federation.
“On February 24, I said that was the beginning of the division of Russia,” he said. “And it will be. Russia will fall apart.”
In the meantime, he is constantly confronted with the daily reality of the damage that war is causing. All senior officials in Kyiv received morning updates from Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s supreme military commander.
He was reading from a letter sent before dawn on Tuesday morning. At that time, the military tracked 17 missiles flying over Ukraine. Fifteen were shot down. He said the two aircraft managed to get through the air defense system, but the damage was very limited.
“Luckily there were no losses today,” he said.