Pentagon says Russia’s invasion ‘not that impressive’ as progress on the ground stalled

Pentagon press secretary says Russian forces have met fiercer than anticipated resistance from Ukraine

Richard Hall
Monday 21 March 2022 21:06
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Ukraine: Four killed as shelling devastates residential district and shopping centre in Kyiv

The Russian military has been “flummoxed” and “frustrated” by fierce Ukrainian resistance since it began its invasion nearly a month ago, the Pentagon has claimed.

“When you look at what they’ve managed to do in 26 days, it’s not that impressive,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a press briefing on Monday.

“What we’re seeing here is the Russians have been flummoxed, they’ve been frustrated, and they have failed to achieve a lot of objectives on the ground,” he added.

Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine has been stalled in recent days following initial early advances in the north, east and south of the country. Mr Kirby said a lack of planning in the Russian military and a stronger than expected resistance from Ukrainians was proving decisive.

“One reason the Russians have been frustrated in terms of the progress they haven’t made is the Ukrainian resistance. But also we’ve not seen them properly plan and execute for logistics and sustainment,” he said, adding that Russia was “having trouble feeding their troops.”

But Mr Kirby added that Russia’s lack of progress on the ground had prompted it to increase its bombardment of civilian areas across the country.

“Because they are still stalled outside cities they are stepping up their long-range fire. Cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, artillery fire — they are lobbing an awful lot of hardware into these cities to force their surrender, and it has increased in recent days,” he said.

He added that the US was seeing “clear evidence that Russian forces are committing war crimes” and said the US would help gather evidence of them.

"We certainly see clear evidence that Russian forces are committing war crimes and we are helping with the collecting of evidence of that," Mr Kirby told the news briefing.

"But there’s investigative processes that are going to go on, and we’re going to let that happen. We’re going to contribute to that investigative process. As for what would come out of that, that’s not a decision that the Pentagon leadership would make."

A Ukrainian serviceman walks between debris inside the Retroville shopping mall after a Russian attack on the northwest of the capital Kyiv on March 21, 2022

Since invading Ukraine on 24 February, Russia’s military has fired more than 1,100 missiles into the country, the Pentagon has claimed — in some cases targeting civilian areas and infrastructure. Sorties by Russian jets have increased significantly in the last 48 hours, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The United Nations has recorded more than 900 civilian deaths so far, but it has warned that the true number is likely to be "considerably higher" due to the difficulties of counting the dead in areas where fighting is heaviest.

Despite its ferocious assault on Ukrainian towns and cities from the air, and its significant advantage over Ukraine in the skies, Russia has not yet been able to achieve air superiority over the country. Mr Kirby said the Ukrainian military has worked “creatively” to prevent that from happening.

“They have used their air defences very effectively, Mr Kirby said.

Russia committing a 'real act of genocide' in Mariupol, says Ukrainian defence minister

The Pentagon press secretary added that the Russian focus has been on the southern city of Mariupol, where it has increased its bombardment in recent days. Survivors of the Russian onslaught in the city have escaped with testimonies of massive destruction and high civilian deaths, but Ukrainian forces have been able to hold onto it so far.

“Ukrainians are defending it bravely and have been able to stymie Russian efforts to take it,” Mr Kirby said.

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