The Russians are “stuck,” low on food and out of fuel. Over their heads, their vaunted air force does not yet own the skies of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, officials in Moscow admitted that nearly 500 Russian soldiers had died in the invasion’s first six days. In contrast, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his forces had killed 6,000 of the invaders.
US officials caution, however, that in the coming days and weeks, “they will learn and they will adapt.”
That assessment came from a senior US defense official Wednesday, March 2, who said the Russian invasion was not moving quickly and appeared to be stalled in the northern parts of the country around Kyiv, but was still active and certain to continue. Russian forces were making quicker headway in the south, the official said.
On the drive for Kyiv, “we would assess no appreciable movement” in the last day, the official added in the Wednesday briefing. “In Kyiv we’ve observed an increase in artillery targeting the city.”
Most artillery to hit Ukrainian cities so far, the official said, has been long-range rockets. However, officials expect that Russians will switch to traditional artillery as they draw nearer.
“That’s classic siege tactics,” the official said.
A 40-mile-long convoy of troops and armored vehicles, the official said, seems to be “stalled north of Kyiv, likely by a combination of Ukrainian resistance, fuel shortages, and difficult terrain.”
“They are clearly meeting with resistance,” the official said. “And they continue to be bedeviled by logistical problems.”
Crucially, the official said, the Russians have yet to establish air superiority. Ukrainian officials claimed Wednesday that they had bombed the Russian convoy overnight, but those claims could not be confirmed.
The official said the Pentagon estimates that 82% of Russia’s massed forces are now in Ukraine, largely unchanged from Tuesday.
The Russians were moving quicker in the south. “We have continued to see Russian forces making more progress down there,” the official said.
The New York Times reported Monday afternoon that the city of Kherson had fallen, quoting the city’s mayor.
The official said that the major cities of Mariupol and Odesa were not yet under siege but many media reports said that Mariupol had been shelled relentlessly in the previous 24 hours.
The official cautioned that the pause in the northern assault could well be at least an effort at regrouping for the Russians before they begin a more focused assault.
Other Ukraine updates:
- The Pentagon said the Russians had launched 450 missiles so far, a mix of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and air defense missiles.
- In Kyiv, Russian attacks had centered on power and media outlets, the official said, including a major TV tower. Access to the internet was also said to be degraded, though still available in the country. “Civilian targets are being struck,” the official said. “They said they were going to do it and they did it.”
- There was also no indication that the Russians had used so-called thermobaric bombs, though their launchers have been spotted.
— UkraineUpdates (@Updates_UA) March 1, 2022
- The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that 498 of its troops had been killed and nearly another 1,600 wounded. Perhaps not surprisingly, Ukrainian officials claimed nearly 10 times that number of Russians dead. Neither number could be verified, the official said.
- The official said there was no indication that Belarus troops had yet moved into the area.
“If we zoom out and look at the whole picture, the advance on Kyiv has been slowed because of resistance from Ukraine, which has been quite creative, and logistics. And we also believe they have had morale problems that have led to less than effective operational success north of Kyiv,” the Pentagon official said. “But we need to be clear-eyed and pragmatic. They will learn and they will adapt and they will try to get past these missteps.”