Russian invasion faces strong resistance, supply lines ‘certain vulnerability’, say US officials

Lviv, Ukraine and Washington, DC

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is facing “stronger than expected” resistance from the Ukrainian military as well as unexpected difficulties in supplying its forces, two senior US officials told CNN. direct knowledge.

On the battlefield, Russia suffered heavier losses in personnel, armor and aircraft than expected. This is partly because Ukrainian air defenses performed better than US intelligence assessments had predicted prior to the invasion. In addition, Russia has yet to establish air supremacy over Ukraine, a senior defense official said, as Ukraine’s air force and air defense systems battle for control of airspace.

“Ukrainian air defences, including aircraft, continue to be operational and continue to engage and deny access to Russian aircraft in locations across the country,” the official said.

Without uncontested control of the sky, it becomes more difficult for an army on the move to see and strike targets from the air.

Together, these challenges have so far prevented the rapid overthrow of major Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kyiv, which US officials feared could happen within days. The city of Kharkiv, near Ukraine’s border with Russia, also did not fall to invading forces, which officials say could happen on the first night of an invasion.

Officials warn that this image of the battlefield is only a moment in time and that the situation on the ground could change very quickly as Russian forces continue their assault.

These officials noted that Russian forces still greatly outnumber Ukrainian forces and that Russia continues to maneuver these forces into position around major urban centers. It is also unclear to what extent the slower movement can be attributed to the logistical challenge of moving such a large force.

The Ukrainian military has a number of different anti-aircraft weapons, including radar-guided and heat-seeking missiles, as well as anti-aircraft guns, according to IHS Janes. The United States has also supplied the Ukrainian military with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles in recent weeks, as have other NATO allies.

On Saturday evening in Ukraine, the United States had seen no indication that the Russian military had taken control of Ukrainian towns, the official said, even as Russian forces moved to encircle some population centers, including Kiev. .

Supplying the large Russian invasion force with fuel and ammunition also proved difficult. As a senior US official explained, Russia expected a quick victory and may have neglected to plan for sufficient resupply of its forces. Supply lines, the official explained, are a “definite vulnerability”.

“What we are assessing now is that he must have committed a bit more logistics and support, fuel in particular, than we think they had planned to do at the start of the operation,” said one of the officials.

Russian forces launched their invasion of Ukraine early Thursday morning, with missiles landing in cities across the country. US officials have said Moscow’s aim is to take Kiev and “decapitate” the government led by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Zelensky refused a US offer to evacuate from Kyiv, the Ukrainian Embassy in Britain wrote on Twitter on Saturday. Zelensky posted videos on social media showing he remained in Ukraine.

“The world has seen that Ukrainians are powerful, Ukrainians are brave, they are in their homeland and they will never give it to anyone. They will never betray him,” he said in a speech on Saturday.

Russia has made its slow advance into Ukraine a halt to allow time for negotiations, not a military setback.

On Saturday, the Russian Defense Ministry said its troops had been ordered to resume their offensive “in all directions”, after a suspension was ordered for negotiations with the Ukrainian government. The ministry said the offensive was ordered to continue after Ukraine abandoned consultations.

A Ukrainian presidential adviser denied in the early hours of Saturday that Ukraine had refused to negotiate.

“They have problems,” a NATO official said of Russian forces, pointing to the latest intelligence from the alliance. “They’re running out of diesel, they’re moving way too slowly and obviously morale is an issue.”

Asked if the Russians are likely to step up, the official said they had no choice. “They are way behind schedule,” the official said. “It’s getting out of control for them, every extra day is very painful.”

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who also remained in Kyiv, said in a CNN interview on Saturday that Ukraine’s military had shown “exceptional heroism” but the country still needed more help. from its allies to receive weapons such as anti-tank missiles.


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