There likely will be two more weeks of fighting. Ukrainians will not give up, even though there will be some kind of ceasefire and partition ahead. The invasion was no different than the ones in Georgia and Chechnya, with Putin still trying to reinstate some Russian pre-USSR imperial vision in reacquired territory. There will be domestic repercussions from this war. 4,000 Russian troops have now perished. 10,000 Russian antiwar protesters have been arrested.
Russian combat power remains intact, the problem is counter-battery fire and ECM as the Russians can hit anything in the nation’s air space, having used a state-of-the-art S-400 missile system for the first time in combat to down a Ukrainian plane. As Alexander Vindman has reported, the battle in the air might be won by UAV drones.
With almost all the Russian forces that amassed on Ukraine's borders now within the country, the wave of Russian invaders continues to crash on the rocks of Ukrainian resistance, said a senior defense official speaking on background.
Overall, Russian progress in the north to take Kyiv is stalled, while President Vladimir Putin's forces in the south are making some progress, the official said.
"Near Kyiv, we still observe that Russian forces have not moved closer to the city center," the official said. "The closest they've been able to get is the airport."
Russian forces are trying to attack Kyiv from the east. "We estimate that they're about 60 kilometers or so from the city," the official said. "So they're still further away than the main advance coming down on the north."
In the south, Mariupol is "isolated" but still fighting, and the official said it appears the Russians are looking to attack the port city of Odesa from the landward side. This could be joined by an amphibious attack as the Russians have 11 amphibious ships in the region.
The official said it does not appear that Putin is ordering in troops or capabilities from other parts of Russia for the invasion. He noted that the Russians have a lot of combat power in Ukraine. The Russian troops invading Ukraine are afflicted by poor morale, and logistics and sustainment problems. He said the Russians did not expect the ferocious defense by the Ukrainian military and Ukrainian civilians. Ten days into the invasion, the Russian forces appear to be behind their timetable for conquest.
Russian long-range artillery and missiles (they have now fired nearly 670 missiles into Ukraine) are regularly hitting civilian areas, the official said. The United Nations now estimates 1.4 million Ukrainians have fled the country with many thousands more internally displaced.
Poland said on Tuesday evening that it is willing to hand over its fleet of 28 MiG 29s to the US – which is in turn expected to pass them on to the Ukrainian air force. Poland is also expecting the US to supply it with more advanced F-16s to fill the gap.
If what is left of Ukraine’s air force were to sustain further losses it would soon reach the point where it is unable to defend itself from attack in the skies. A new fleet of aircraft would ensure the airspace above Ukraine remains contested at least for a time, and would make Russia think twice about airstrikes on Kyiv.
But the main problem faced by Ukraine’s armed forces at present, is Russia’s preponderance in artillery. Russia has been shelling cities such as Kharkiv and Mariupol for several days in an attempt to force their surrender.
Ukraine could try to use its planes to strike enemy convoys from the air, but that would be fraught with risk as Russia is thought to have brought air defence systems closer to the frontline in the past few days.
The number is based on imperfect information, prompting Lt. Gen. Berrier, the director at DIA, to say he has "low confidence" in the number. Still, it's the best estimate the U.S. appears to have.
The senior U.S. defense official said Berrier did "the best he could" to answer.
In today's Pentagon briefing, many details sound reasonably stagnant. Bombardments continue. The convoy north of Kyiv is still stalled beginning at Hostomel airport. And the Russians continue to have a bit more success in southern Ukraine.
As of today, "nearly 670" missiles have been launched at Ukraine by Russia since the invasion began Feb. 26, the senior U.S. defense official said. That number has risen by a few dozen per day for a while now.
Notably: The senior defense official noted the advance of Russian forces northeast of Kyiv. They've been pushing west from the area around Sumy, as Russia seeks to encircle the capital. As of today, they are about 37 miles east of Kyiv, the official said.
No appreciable change in combat power Russia has put in the fight. They are still at "nearly 100 percent" of the combat forces they had arrayed at the border before the invasion began, senior U.S. defense official says. No sign they are bringing in reinforcements, he adds.
Russian combat power is still "largely intact," senior defense official says. Ukraine's too.
Rough breakdown of Russia's 670-missile barrage so far:
- Almost half fired from Russia
- About 70 from Belarus
- Handful from Black Sea
- The rest from inside Ukraine
Senior defense official says airspace is still contested. But he notes that Russia can reach just about anywhere over Ukraine with surface-to-air missiles. That, of course, is important in any conversation about a no-fly zone being established.
Russia shelled a major gas pipeline in eastern Ukraine yesterday, the senior defense official said. As a result, many in eastern Ukraine are now without gas.
Russians are "stuck" outside Chernihiv without making progress there, senior U.S. defense official says.
In contrast, Mariupol is now isolated, the Pentagon assesses.
"Iterative discussions" are ongoing with allies and partners are underway to supply Ukraine what it needs, senior defense official says. But no changes on the discussion about sending jets to Ukraine.
On humanitarian corridors, the senior defense official says that it is "disingenuous" to say anything heading toward Belarus or Russia counts. Hope is for more that are honored by Russia in the future.
In the hearing with Lt. Gen. Berrier, he forecast greater challenges for Kyiv this month, as Russia attempts to cut food and water supplies.
The situation, he said, "will become somewhat desperate in 10 days to two weeks."
The senior U.S. defense official said that when it comes to humanitarian corridors, "the Russians have not proven to be reliable."
"Whether the two sides are able to continue to work out these kinds of agreements, we can't know for sure," the official said.
• • •
As Mark Milley tells the story conveyed by his map, the Russian leader began a war that he will have great difficulty completing — and any attempt to expand it will summon a devastating response.
Maps are the most basic tools of military strategy. They allow commanders to chart a course through the fog of war; they organize the chaos of the battlefield. Milley huddling with his staff around his battle plan of the Ukraine theater conjures similar scenes through history, as generals from George Washington to Dwight D. Eisenhower leaned over maps to study the enemy’s formation and plot strategy.
Milley ordered aides to begin assembling the map in late October, when startling intelligence reports signaled that Russia was gathering an invasion army on Ukraine’s border. The Russian forces were no exercise; intercepted messages showed that Russia was actually planning an attack.
Milley took the first versions of his map to the White House in late October, “to paint the picture for the NSC and the president,” one defense official said. The chairman would bring five or six copies of the map, Ukraine in green, and leave them with top officials.
Biden quickly concluded that Russia’s assault planning was for real — and that America needed to lead an effort to stop it. Biden then did something unprecedented. He decided to share much of the top-secret intelligence with NATO allies — and then, increasingly, with the public through leaks to the press.
On the eve of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, Biden ordered Milley and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to brief Congress on what the map showed — and then to give the same briefing, on “deep background,” to the Pentagon press corps. This was a declassified version of code-word intelligence, drawn from communications intercepts, surveillance satellites and spies on the ground. America’s best weapon against Putin, Biden decided, was the truth. The administration had found a way to weaponize intelligence.
I asked how his spirits were holding up. Answer: "Now is not the time for crying; now is the time for laughing."
He meant at Russia's military performance and its enormous losses in manpower and firepower in the field.
"They have lost far more than they expected. That is why they started peace negotiations on the second day of the war."
"Yesterday, they lost 30 helicopters in the vicinity of Kherson where our marines destroyed them. The government announced this. Frankly speaking, it's true."
"There was also some evidence for the loss of two aircraft in the airspace around Kyiv."
"Our mood: Everything is OK. We are defending our soil, our Motherland. We have nothing to lose. They are conquerors. They are the fascists. And we will win. I have no doubt."
I asked about all the Russian deserters abandoning their undamaged tanks, BTRs, air defense systems. Where did they go and where are they now?
"They fled into the woods. Sometimes they're marodyory [looters, marauders]. Even according to our interceptions we can determine many are robbing civilian houses and occupying them."
"We also have evidence that even when the Russians occupy villages and towns they face resistance. In Kyiv they will meet extremely tough Territorial Defense."
He also confirmed the majority of Ukraine's Air Force is still intact, on Day 12, including fixed wing and rotary aircraft. I asked how many operational Bayraktar TB2 drones Ukraine has in its arsenal. He laughed. "OK, Michael, can I just say: 'It's enough.'" // END
• • •