Washington, March 06, 2022.- The Russian invasion prong aimed at the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv appears to be stalled, while fighting rages in Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, a senior defense official said today.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has amassed more than 150,000 troops in 120 battalion tactical groups on the border of Ukraine since last fall, and about 90 percent of the forces have invaded, the official said.
In the southern part of the besieged country, news reports indicate the Russians have taken the city of Kherson, but U.S. officials cannot independently confirm this development. Russian forces did get closer to Mariupol, another city in Ukraine’s south, and are shelling the city.
The Russians are also shelling Kyiv and Kharkiv, with more rounds hitting civilian targets. » have shown a willingness to hit civilian infrastructure on purpose,» the official said, citing the TV tower near Kyiv’s Babi Yar Memorial as an example.
«Obviously, are hitting residential areas. There’s no doubt about that,» he said. «The degree to which that is intentional — and intentionally precise, in that regard — is difficult for us to assess. But clearly it’s happening.»
United Nations officials said at least 227 civilians have been killed in the fighting, but they added that could be a massive undercount.
Across northern Ukraine, Russian forces appear to be largely stalled, the official said. «In Kyiv, the Russian forces remain north and northwest of the city,» he said. The capital city is under increasing bombardment.
In Kharkiv, officials assess that the Russian forces now appear to be just outside the city, very near the ring road, a bypass road around the city.
Ukrainian command and control nodes continue to function, and Ukraine’s air defenses remain effective, the official said. «They continue to be able to fly their airplanes and to employ air-defense assets,» the official said. «And, as of this morning, we’ve now counted more than 480 Russian missile launchers, again, of all of all sizes and stripes.»
The defense official said the United States cannot confirm that Russia is using cluster munitions or thermobaric fuel-air bombs against Ukraine.
The Russian movements may appear to be stalled, but there is still a lot of combat power available to Putin, the official said. Ukrainian fighting abilities have had an effect on the Russians, as have problems with logistics and sustainment, or they may be pausing to reassess their campaign and redirect their efforts, the official said.
The official also noted that the United States does not have aircraft over Ukraine nor boots on the ground there.
These troops have combined-arms capabilities, and, so far, Putin has not called up reserve forces from elsewhere in Russia, the official said. There are still thousands of troops in Russia and Belarus to draw upon. «But just because they’re drawing more on it every day, you should not take away from that that their combat power is being diminished to such a point inside Ukraine that they are they feel like they’re running out of juice,» he said. «We still assess that they have available to them in and outside Ukraine, the vast, vast majority of their total combat power.»