The Russian campaign to seize control of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine is moving slowly and behind schedule, a Pentagon official said Friday.
Stiff resistance from Ukrainian troops and caution after Russia’s failure to capture Kyiv has led to “slow and uneven progress” in Donbas, the official told reporters.
“We believe that essentially what they’re doing is continuing to set conditions for a sustained and larger and longer offensive,” the official said.
That includes a “doctrinal” approach of launching airstrikes and then artillery strikes at Ukraine positions, and only then attempting to move forward on the ground.
But those strikes are not as successful as the Russians hoped in driving Ukrainians back, according to the official, leading to plodding gains on the ground.
In addition, “they’re still a little wary of getting out ahead of their supply lines. They don’t want to make the same mistakes that they’ve made in Kyiv,” the official said.
Consequently, the official said, “We do believe in the sense that they’re behind schedule and what they were trying to accomplish in the Donbas.”
The official said the Pentagon believes the Russians “are at least several days behind where they wanted to be.”
Russia is believed to be attempting to form a pincer on the battlefield that can be closed and surround Ukrainian troops fighting on the front lines.
In their short-term goals, the Russians aim to capture territory to the east of an imaginary line between Kharkiv and Donetsk, battlefield analysts believe.
The Russians have 92 battalion tactical groups in the east and south of Ukraine now, with more poised on the Russian side of the border, according to the Pentagon.
But those BTGs are not necessarily full-strength after significant setbacks in the first weeks of the two-month-old war, the official said.
The US and European allies are rushing heavy artillery into Ukraine to help with the defense, but given the logistics of moving scores of howitzers and the need for training of Ukraine forces to operate them, the new equipment is still mostly not at the front and engaged in the fight.
“They will be getting more American artillery and the trainers to go with it to use in their defence. So this could become a bit of a gun battle,” the official said.
Emotional Pentagon spokesman slams Putin’s ‘depravity’
Washington (AFP) April 29, 2022 –
An emotional Pentagon spokesman lashed out Friday at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “depravity” in Ukraine, questioning how any moral person could defend bombing hospitals and summary executions of innocent people.
John Kirby, the former US Navy admiral who has briefed journalists on camera five days a week since the war began on February 24, lost his composure momentarily as he spoke of atrocities committed in Ukraine.
“It’s hard to look at what he’s doing in Ukraine, what his forces are doing in Ukraine, and think that any ethical, moral individual could justify that,” Kirby said haltingly, when asked how the US government assessed the Russian leader’s mental state.
“I can’t talk to his psychology. But I think we can all speak to his depravity,” he said.
Kirby, spokesman for the State Department in 2015-2017 and for the Defense Department since early 2021, is known for his fluid, knowledgeable and fact-heavy answers to journalists, as well as for avoiding hyperbole and discipline to not say more than he is allowed to.
Since the administration of President Joe Biden determined late last year that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine, Kirby has been the administration’s key public messenger on the conflict.
But he suddenly found himself at a loss for words Friday, looking grim and sad when reflecting on the two months of war.
He called Putin’s justifications for the invasion — that he is protecting Russians and that Ukraine was a font of Nazism — “BS.”
“It’s hard to square that rhetoric by what he’s actually doing inside Ukraine to innocent people, shot in the back of the head, hands tied behind their backs, pregnant women being killed, hospitals being bombed,” Kirby said.
“I mean, it’s just unconscionable and I don’t have the mental capacity to understand how you connect those two things.”
Before the war, Kirby said, “I don’t think we fully appreciated the degree to which (Putin) would visit that kind of violence and cruelty and depravity on innocent people, on non-combatants, on civilians, with such utter disregard for the lives he was taking,”
He then apologized for the rare show of emotion.
“I don’t want to make this about me. But I’ve been around the military a long, long time, and I’ve known friends who didn’t make it back. It’s just hard,” Kirby said.
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Putin warns of ‘lightning response’ to intervention in Ukraine
Moscow (AFP) April 27, 2022
President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that if any other country intervenes in Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, Russia will launch a quick-fire military response.
Speaking to lawmakers, Putin said that “if anyone sets out to intervene in the current events from the outside and creates unacceptable threats for us that are strategic in nature, they should know that our response… will be lightning-fast”.
The Russian leader said that the military would not hesitate to use the most modern … read more