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The Russians have slowed down but not stopped – WAVY.com

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Two weeks after the war in Ukraine, Russia has achieved less and struggled more than anticipated at the outset of Europe’s biggest land conflict since World War Two. But the invasion force of more than 150,000 men retained a great advantage and could decide on firepower as they attacked key cities.

Moscow’s primary goal – toppling the Kyiv government and replacing it with Kremlin-friendly leadership – remains elusive and its overall offensive has been slowed by a series of setbacks, including the lack of coordination between air and ground forces and inability to completely dominate Ukraine’s skies.

The Pentagon on Wednesday estimated that Russia retains about 90% of the combat power it has deployed in Ukraine, including destroyed or inoperable weapons and vehicles as well as dead and wounded soldiers. love. Those losses, modest at first glance, were substantial in the two weeks of fighting.

Two weeks of war have created a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine that has grown in recent days. The United Nations estimates that 2 million Ukrainians have left their country and this number is expected to grow.

Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said Russia may have killed between 2,000 and 4,000 troops so far, adding that his agency “does not have confidence” in its estimates.

If there is no sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin will back down, the fight is likely to drag on. CIA Director William Burns told a congressional panel on Tuesday that Putin is frustrated and potentially “doubled down” in Ukraine. He said that could mean “the next couple of weeks will be uglier” as hostilities intensify.

Whether and how the conflict might widen is of great concern in the West, especially because Putin has said he will have zero tolerance for unlimited US or NATO arms supplies. for Ukraine. In turn, NATO has warned about the conflict from Russia spilling over the border of Ukraine to a NATO country like Poland or Romania. Poland on Tuesday offered to hand over MiG-29 fighter jets to US control at an airbase in Germany, perhaps prompting Washington to question whether and how to get the planes to Ukraine. . The Pentagon quickly dismissed the idea, saying it couldn’t be done because of disputed Ukrainian airspace, and on Wednesday the Pentagon said it had moved two U.S. Army Patriot air defense units. United States from Germany to Poland to strengthen defenses against potential Russian threats to a NATO ally.

Some worry that a frustrated Putin could escalate the conflict in dangerous ways. A few days after the war, he raised the prospect of nuclear war by declaring that he had put his nuclear forces on high alert, even though American officials did not detect it. There is no threatening change in Russia’s nuclear posture.

“As he ponders the escalation of the conflict, Putin probably remains confident that Russia can defeat Ukraine militarily and wants to prevent Western support from tilting the balance and forcing it to happen. conflict with NATO,” Avril Haines, director of national intelligence, told Congress. on Tuesday.

While it is difficult to get a detailed picture of the ongoing war, American and European officials and analysts argue that the Russians started off slow and have since been made difficult by a combination of Inadequate planning, wrong tactics and possibly morale erosion of armies that are not ready to fight. .

On the opening day of the war, the Pentagon estimated that only about one-third of Russia’s pre-arranged combat force had entered Ukraine, with the remaining two-thirds to enter gradually until almost the week was over. this. The Russian army made progress step by step, but their pace slowed considerably.

“They’re having a mental problem,” said John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman. “They are having a supply problem. They are having fuel problems. They are having a food problem. They are facing very fierce and determined resistance from the Ukrainians. And we still maintain that they are a few days behind on their progress. “

Kirby said the Pentagon believes the slow pace of Russian ground troops’ advance has led them to use more missiles, artillery and other long-range weapons, including in urban areas. That has resulted in more civilian casualties, he said.

“We think that’s because, again, they haven’t been able to make up for the lost time they continue to suffer in the field in terms of ground-force advancement,” Kirby said.

After staging more than 150,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, the Russians launched their invasion on 24 February, advancing south towards Kyiv from points in southern Belarus and Russia; toward Kharkiv, the largest city in eastern Ukraine, and north from the Crimean peninsula that Russia has occupied since 2014. On Wednesday, the Pentagon said Russian forces had made new advances this week. in Kharkiv and the southern city of Mykolaiv.

Ukrainians have resisted more violently than Putin might have expected, even as Russian rocket and missile attacks on cities have resulted in civilian casualties, damage and destruction of facilities. civil infrastructure, while causing an ever-increasing wave of migrants seeking safety in Poland and beyond.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, said on Friday that Russia may have underestimated the extent to which Ukraine’s armed forces have improved since 2014 as a result of US and NATO training.

“And here’s why they can push back” as effectively as they have, says Stoltenberg.

Philip Breedlove, a retired Air Force general who served as NATO’s top commander in Europe from 2013 to 2016, says that although Russian forces are behind schedule, he believes that in the end together they have the ability to capture Kyiv.

“Unless there’s a major shift in the operational level, they have what I call slow, steady momentum that if they can handle the losses it will bring them,” he said. , they will eventually accomplish that goal.” That raises questions about the Russian occupation and the possibility of an uprising.

Breedlove said the Russian offensive in southern Ukraine has been less bogged down than in the north and is designed to establish a “land bridge” between the southeast Donbas region and the Crimean peninsula and the west with the city. Odesa port city of the Black Sea, which would make Ukraine a landlocked country.

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Associated Press writers Lorne Cook in Brussels and Nomaan Merchant in Washington contributed to this report.

https://www.wavy.com/news/world/ukraine-war-at-2-week-mark-russians-slowed-but-not-stopped/ The Russians have slowed down but not stopped – WAVY.com

Russell Falcon

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