Russian armored personnel carriers are stalled by the roadside for lack of fuel. Soldiers forage for food in grocery stores. Trucks are backed up from Kyiv like a Friday night traffic jam.

Images of Russia’s travails in the first week of its invasion of Ukraine have transfixed the world, raising questions over the assumed invincibility of President Vladimir Putin’s modernized military. Yet one cause of its stumbles is very simple: the humble railway junction.

The Russian armed forces, like the Soviets before them, move almost everything by rail. They also build temporary pipelines to deliver oil and water to the front. Yet in Ukraine, all of that is now having to be moved by road and the Russian army is chronically short of the trucks to do it, simply because it doesn’t normally need them.