The Russian invasion targeting the Ukrainian capital Kiev appears to be stalling as fighting rages in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, a senior defense official said on Friday.
In the south of the besieged country, news reports indicate that the Russians have taken the city of Kherson, but US analysts cannot independently confirm this fact. Russian forces have closed in on Mariupol, another city in southern Ukraine, and are shelling the city. The Russians are also shelling Kiev and Kharkiv, with more shells hitting civilian targets. “The Russians have shown their willingness to attack civilian infrastructure on purpose,” citing the television tower near Kiev’s Babi Yar monument as an example. “Obviously, [the Russians] are attacking residential areas. There is no doubt about it.” “The degree of intentionality – and intentional precision, for that matter – is difficult for us to assess. But it is clear that it is happening.” United Nations officials said that at least 227 civilians have been killed in the fighting, but added that it could be many due to the difficulty of finding reliable data.
Throughout northern Ukraine, Russian forces appear to be largely deadlocked, specifying that “in Kiev, Russian forces remain north and northwest of the city.” The capital is being bombarded with greater force in an indiscriminate manner between military and civilian targets. In Kharkiv, officials assess that Russian forces now appear to be on the outskirts of the city, very close to the ring road, a ring road that surrounds the city. Ukrainian command and control centers continue to function, and Ukraine’s air defenses remain effective. “They are still able to fly their aircraft and employ air defense assets.” “And, as of this morning, we have counted more than 480 Russian missile launchers, again, of all sizes and stripes.” The defense official said the United States cannot confirm that Russia is using cluster munitions or fuel-air thermobaric bombs against Ukraine.
Russian moves may appear to be stalled, but there is still plenty of fighting power at Putin’s disposal. The Ukrainian combat capability has taken its toll on the Russians, as have logistics and sustainment issues, or they may be pausing to reassess their campaign and refocus their efforts, the official said. These troops have combined arms capabilities, and, so far, Putin has not called up reserve forces from other parts of Russia. There are still thousands of troops in Russia and Belarus to call on. “But the fact that they are turning to them more every day does not mean that their combat power is diminishing to such an extent inside Ukraine that they feel they are running out of forces,” he said. “We continue to assess what they have at their disposal inside and outside of Ukraine, the vast majority of their total combat power.”