The Pentagon has been providing daily updates on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Ukraine’s efforts to resist.
Here are highlights of what a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Wednesday on Day 28:
Russian troops face major setback east of Kyiv and moving into defensive positions
In a significant movement, Ukraine’s military forces have pushed back Russian forces east of Kyiv to 55 kilometers from the city center, according to a senior defense official.
For weeks, and as recently as Tuesday, Russian forces have been kept at bay approximately 20 to 30 kilometers from the center of the capital city.
The official said that Ukrainian forces near Bovary “have been able to push the Russians back to about 55 kilometers east and northeast of Kyiv.”
The ability to push back Russian forces nearly twice as far as where they had been for weeks is in line with what the official had said on Tuesday were indications that in some areas Ukrainian forces were attempting to retake territory taken by Russia. “Ukrainians are not only in some of these places up sufficiently defending they’re going on the offense in some of these places and actually pushing the Russians backwards, or in the case of Kiev, they’re, they’re basically forcing them into a defensive position,” the official said Wednesday.
The U.S. now assesses that Russian troops that have been stalled 12 to 15 kilometers north of the city are “digging in” and establishing defensive positions according to the official. “They’re forcing them into a defensive position” the official told reporters on Wednesday. “So it’s not that they’re not advancing, they’re actually not trying to advance right now,” said the official. “They’re taking more defensive positions.”
“We’re starting to see him sort of dig in around Kyiv but really trying to go more on the offense than they have been, more energy applied, in that eastern part of Ukraine” said the official.
Ukrainians pushing back Russian troops in Cherniviv
Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops in the city of Chernihiv, northeast of Kyiv, have also succeeded in slightly pushing back some of the Russian forces that have surrounded the city for weeks. The official described Ukrainians forces there as continuing to fight “very hard” against Russian forces to keep them out of the city and in some cases Russian troops have been “ceding ground.” “They are actually moving in the opposite direction, but not by much,” the official said of Russian forces around the city.
Russian troops now prioritizing operations in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region
The official said Russia appears to be “starting to prioritize” their operations in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, particularly around Luhansk, to cut off Ukraine’s military that has been fighting there against Russian separatists for the past eight years. “We still believe that the Russians are trying to basically cut it off and therefore pin down Ukrainian forces that are that are in the Luhansk, Donetsk area,” said the official.
“What we’re seeing now is indications that the Russians are really starting to prioritize that part of eastern Ukraine,” said the official. “We believe that they are now going to start to apply, actually, they have applied a lot more energy in the Luhansk, Donetsk area, particularly around Luhansk. You’re seeing them really put more energy and effort into that part of Ukraine.”
The official has previously said that it appears that the Russian forces fighting to take over the southern port city of Mariupol so they can then push north into the Donbass to cut off the Ukrainian military. Meanwhile, the fighting in that city remains “very very contested” according to the official who also described the fighting there between Russian and Ukrainian troops as being “hardcore.” The official noted that Russian forces continue to heavily bombard the city with artillery and long range missile fire.
Meanwhile, it appears that recent Russian military activity around the western port city of Odessa that led to speculation of an attack on the city may have been a feint intended to “pin down Ukrainian forces.” “It’s not entirely it’s not entirely obvious that they actually will make a move on Odessa,” said the official. “So we’re just we’re just kind of watching that to see to see where it goes.”
More US troops going forward to eastern Europe?
The official said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is always assessing the U.S. military presence in eastern Europe and has not “taken off the table” the possibility “that he will flow more forces in from the United States or reposition from elsewhere in Europe.”
But for now there are no announcements to make said the official who added that it’s unclear what the U.S. military posture in eastern Europe will look like going forward. “Certainly, the security environment in Europe is different now. And it will be different that it will be different no matter what the outcome is of this war,” said the official.
“I think it’s safe to say that the United States as well as other NATO nations will be taken a hard look at what it whether we have the footprint right and whether the posture is appropriate to the new security environment that results from all this,” the official said.
Russia has lots of missiles left to use
According to the official, Russia has now launched more than 1,200 missiles into Ukraine, but “we still assess that they have the vast majority of their of their assembled available inventory of surface to air missiles and cruise missiles available to them.” Though the Russian military has expended a lot of the missile inventory readied for operations in Ukraine the official noted that “they still have an awful lot left.”
The official said that Russia’s military is “running the lowest on our air launched cruise missiles” but that they still have “over 50% of what they had assembled prior to the invasion. But they still have a significant number of ground launched cruise missiles, short range ballistic missiles, and medium range ballistic missiles.