Senior defense official: No sign yet of Belarusian forces fighting in Ukraine
U.S. officials have not seen Belarusian troops involved in or preparing to join the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a senior U.S. defense official said Monday.
“We have seen no indications that Belarusian troops are being readied to move into Ukraine and certainly no indications that they are in fact moving or are in Ukraine,” the official told reporters. “Our best information is that the forces inside Ukraine are all Russians.”
Reports emerged earlier Monday that Belarus is preparing to send troops into Ukraine in support of the Russian invasion which began last week.
Russian President Vladimir Putin so far has sent into Ukraine “just under 75 percent” of the more than 150,000 troops he had assembled for the assault, and forces have fired more than 380 missiles, the official said.
The Kremlin has already used Belarus as a location from which to pour its troops quickly across the border into Ukraine after insisting the large number of forces assembled there were for joint military drills.
The U.S. has also “seen some indications” that Russia in some areas of Ukraine is employing mercenaries from the shadowy Russian military contractor the Wagner Group, though details on where or how many are not clear.
The official also said Russian forces are frustrated they have not yet taken the capital city of Kyiv, which could lead them to take a “more aggressive approach” militarily.
“They have been slowed and they have been frustrated by their lack of progress on Kyiv,” they said. “One of the things that that could result in is a reevaluation of their tactics and the potential for them to be more aggressive and more overt, in both the size and scale of their targeting of Kyiv.”
The Russians are “running out of gas and they’re having logistics problems” on the way south to Kyiv and have also met significant Ukrainian resistance.
Still, the Kremlin forces are roughly 16 miles away from the capital city, which they hope to encircle, according to the official.
“We do believe that their plans are to encircle the city and they try to take it that way because that has really been where the heaviest fighting has been,” they said.