Pentagon officials on Tuesday praised the bravery and courage of the Ukrainian people in their fight against the Russian invasion, TURAN’s Washington correspondent reports.
Ukrainian forces have been trying in the last few days to regain territory from the Russians, according to a senior Pentagon official, who described them as “able and willing” to do so.
The official on condition of anonymity said, the U.S, assesses the Russians have launched more than 1,100 missiles since they invaded Ukraine 27 days ago on February 24.
Despite that, Ukrainian forces have continued to hold off Russian attempts at invading the Ukraine capital of Kyiv by about 15 km to the northwest and about 30 km to the east in the past 24 hours, according to the Pentagon official, who added there have been “no real changes by the Russians on the ground near Kyiv.”
Russians, the official said, are coming down out of Kharkiv toward Izium, which is believed to be an attempt to cut off the joint force operations area that’s basically the Donbas.
“That’s one reason — not the only reason — why we think are so interested in Mariupol; so they can come up from the south and down from the north from Izium,” where the Ukrainians are fighting hard to take back the city from the Russians, the official added.
The official cautioned that the US cannot say whether these moves are part of a “larger operational plan” by the Ukrainians or not, but called the Ukrainian defense “nimble” and “agile.”
Pentagon also observed over the last 24 hours that the Russians have likely been firing into from the Sea of Azov.
“Just to the south of Mariupol, we assess that they’ve got about ships in the Sea of Azov and we think some of them — at least the surface combatants … have been shelling into Mariupol and that wasn’t the case yesterday,” the official said.
Not all of those seven ships are surface combatants, the official added, saying that a minesweeper is amid the fleet with a couple of tank landing ships. A change from yesterday.
“We continue to observe a number of Russian forces inside the city. We think at least some of them are separatist forces that came from Donbas, and the Ukrainians are fighting very hard to keep Mariupol from falling.”
There has also not been much change in the airspace, the official said. “did not observe shelling of Odesa from the Black Sea over the last 24 hours, but we still assess that they have several warships that are in the northern Black Sea.”
A senior defense official has also given a critical review of Russia’s ability to take over Ukraine, describing morale issues, command-and-control problems, a reliance on conscripts and a stalled advance to Kyiv. Additionally, the official said, Russian forces continue to be plagued by logistical problems.
Russia’s combat power in Ukraine has declined below 90% of its pre-invasion levels for the first time since its attack began, another Pentagon official said, suggesting heavy losses of weaponry and growing casualties.