95% of Putin’s forces nevertheless intact, plan to surround Kyiv: Pentagon up…

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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 on Tuesday:

Russian forces mostly nevertheless intact

Nearly all Russian forces arrayed at the Ukrainian border for the invasion have now gone in, according to the official. Despite losing troops, ground vehicles and aircraft in the fighting, the official estimated these forces keep approximately 95% intact.

Russian ground efforts stalled in the north

Russian troops approaching Kyiv have made little progress in recent days, according to the official.

“We continue to see Ukrainian resistance efforts slow down the Russians, particularly in the north,” the official said.

Another factor is that “they nevertheless seem to be plagued by logistics and sustainment challenges,” including fuel and food shortages, the official said.

The Pentagon also continues to see fighting and resistance against the Russian improvement in the northern cities of Chernihiv and Kharkiv.

The farthest the main Russian force heading to Kyiv seems to have been able to reach is Hostomel Airport, a site of intense combat some 20 miles northwest of the city.

But their intent is clear, the official said: “We nevertheless have every reason to estimate that their effort is to encircle and force the surrender of Kiev.”

A new Russian approach emerges

Further out than those improvement troops, a Russian push toward the capital is emerging in the northeast, just above the town of Sumy, the official said. These troops are approximately 37 miles from Kyiv.

Russians try to “sow fear and confusion” in the city

While the main invading force has not reached Kyiv, the official was in “no position to refute” reports of minor, secluded skirmishes between Russian “reconnaissance elements” and Ukrainian forces inside the city.

“We think that these reports of street fighting in Kyiv are really the consequence of their efforts to sow fear and confusion and and try to set the stage for what could be coming later,” the official said.

Strikes on civilians continue

Russian air and missile attacks are increasing as their ground effort has been frustrated, according to the official.

“Whether deliberately or not, they’re hitting military and government infrastructure in addition as residential areas and civilian targets,” the official said.

Russians see more success in the south

Russian troops advancing to the northwest out of Crimea are about 25 miles from Mykolayiv, the official said. The official noted that while there is speculation that the move on Mykolayiv is meant to put troops in position to attack the port city of Odessa from the north as amphibious troops assault from the coast, “we don’t see any evidence of amphibious landings” at this point.

On the Sea of Azov coast, Russian forces have secluded Mariupol and continue to bombard it with long-range attacks. Thousands of troops put ashore in an amphibious landing on the second day of the invasion are approaching the city from the southwest as more troops push down from Donetsk.

U.S.-Russia deconfliction line in working order

Last week Pentagon press secretary John Kirby announced it had set up a “deconfliction line” with Russia to “reduce the chances of miscalculations and try to bring down the tensions as that contested airspace over Ukraine now bumps up against NATO airspace.”

The senior defense official said that as of Tuesday, the two countries have used the line about a dozen times, but so far only for test calls to make sure “somebody’s picking up on the other end.”

A problem for any hypothesizedv no-fly zone

“Much of the airspace of Ukraine, north and south, is under some umbrella of Russian surface-to-air missile capability,” the official said.

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