Russian troops are steadily encircling Kharkiv and Kiev, blockading them and cutting off supplies to the Ukrainian guards inside the two largest Ukrainian cities.

Explosions can be heard in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and the countrys second largest city, Kharkiv, the Ukrainian authorities said.

The Russian penetration of the two cities is taking place slowly and steadily, more to anchor the Ukrainian forces within them.

Street fighting erupted in Kharkiv at dawn as Russian troops launched their offensive in Ukraines second city, after another night of Russian air strikes, with huge explosions from hitting a gas pipeline and a refinery, while a school also caught fire.

Kiev was calm for a few hours yesterday, Sunday.

The Russian offensive is carried out on four axes: north of Kiev, northeast of Kharkiv, west of Donbas and from Crimea.

The last two axes are the most important, as an attempt is being made to encircle the main Ukrainian forces.

That is why at this stage the Russians want more control of the roads and the encirclement of the big cities in Eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine is a country of several million people and a large territory. Those in the West who thought it was going to be a 96-hour war either didnt know what they were saying or were deliberately saying it for communication purposes.

The occupation of large cities such as Kiev and Kharkiv requires a high cost in men and material and for the time being the blockade of their road transport is considered as the first priority as the objective is to neutralise the Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and in a second phase and if necessary until then the large cities will follow.

Civil war implies heavy civilian casualties and this is something Moscow wants to avoid for obvious reasons.

But this is not the case. The war has days ahead of it, unless something changes in the near future at the diplomatic level (the chances are slim).