Ukrainian forces fight to take back territory as Russian forces struggle
Ukrainians forces have moved to take back territory Russians had gained in recent days, as the Kremlin forces struggle with a loss of more than 10 percent of their combat force in the country, a senior U.S. defense official said Tuesday.
“What we’re starting to see are indications that they are now able and willing to take back territory that the Russians have taken,” the official told reporters, adding that the Ukrainian troops continue defend their cities “in a very nimble, agile way.”
The official pointed to the city of Izyum in the east, which the Russians had taken. The U.S. now sees “significant fighting there by the Ukrainians and an effort to take it back.”
In the south, Ukrainians are also fighting to take back Kherson and push Russian troops from areas north of Mykolaiv.
“Because the Ukrainians are fighting so hard in Mykolaiv … they’re making the Russians sort of reposition around there,” according to the official.
Kremlin forces elsewhere in the country remain largely stalled — in particular around Kyiv — with a new U.S. assessment that the Russian military has lost a little more than 10 percent of the combat force President Vladimir Putin sent into Ukraine beginning Feb. 24, the official said. Those combat forces were estimated to number more than 150,000 troops.
The U.S. also has seen “no tangible indications” combat forces are being replenished with reinforcements brought in from elsewhere in the country or flown in from foreign sources, they added.
In addition, the Russian military is struggling to supply its forces with food, fuel and more weapons, with some soldiers suffering frostbite because they lack appropriate cold-weather gear. U.S. intelligence has also seen signs that the Kremlin is concerned over keeping their ships fueled, the official said.
“We picked up indications that some troops have actually suffered and taken out of the fight because of frostbite. So yes, they are having continued logistics and sustainment issues … because the Ukrainians had done a good job frustrating their efforts to resupply.”
But not all news is positive for the Ukrainians, as heavy shelling has continued for many areas, including the besieged port city of Mariupol, which Russian ships have begun firing on from the Sea of Azov, the official said.
The sea-based firing, which began in the past 24 hours, is likely coming from Russian surface combatants, which are among the seven Kremlin ships in the body of water.
The official also said there is “lots of continued bombardment, artillery and long-range fires” into the city.
“We continue to observe a number of Russian forces inside the city. We think at least some of them are separatist forces that came from the Donbas, and again, the Ukrainians are fighting very, very hard to keep Mariupol from falling,” the official said.
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