US defense official: Russians are willing to hit civilian targets on purpose. * Russian President Vladimir Putin: All going according to plan.
https://www.jpost.com/-By AARON REICH
A member of the Territorial Defence Forces stands guard at a checkpoint, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 3, 2022. (photo credit: Mykola Tymchenko/Reuters)
Russia’s invasion into Ukraine has reportedly stalled while trying to seize the capital city of Kyiv, though fighting in the South has seen more progress as battles rage in the second-largest city of Kharkiv, the Pentagon reported.
Artillery shelling has continued in Kyiv and Kharkiv, including striking civilian targets like the TV tower near the Babyn Yar memorial in Kyiv. This, a US defense official claimed, is indicative of the Russians’ “willingness to hit civilian infrastructure on purpose.”
“Obviously, [the Russians] are hitting residential areas. There’s no doubt about that,” the official said, according to the Pentagon. “The degree to which that is intentional — and intentionally precise, in that regard — is difficult for us to assess. But clearly, it’s happening.”
The shelling of residential areas such as in Kharkiv has already been condemned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who called it a war crime earlier in the week.
Allegations have also been made that Russian troops have utilized illegal weapons such as cluster munitions and vacuum bombs.
A firefighter works to extinguish fire at a warehouse that caught flames, according to local authorities, after shelling, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in the village of Chaiky in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 3, 2022. (credit: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)
In the South, while fighting rages in Kharkiv, Russian forces have also reportedly managed to take the city of Kherson, as well as the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
According to British intelligence, Russian forces have not managed to capture Mariupol, a major Ukrainian port city on the Sea of Azov, but have likely encircled it and have launched intense strikes against civilian infrastructure.
According to US defense intelligence, of the 150,000 Russian troops mobilized by Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, which had been amassed along the border throughout the preceding months, around 90% of them have already made their way into the country.
However, there is still considerable manpower and combat capabilities available to Russia, and the reserve forces have not yet been drawn upon.
Despite this, Russian forces have been suffering severe logistical issues and fuel shortages, which many say have hampered their invasion.
According to the Ukrainian military, Russia has mobilized the pro-Russia militia forces in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two separatist-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine that Putin recognized as independent nations.
Some of these were reportedly mobilized to storm parts of Ukrainian territory or to launch a naval offensive against the major city of Odessa. Others, however, were sent to storm Kyiv as “cannon fodder,” something the Ukrainian military alleges to be a war crime.
According to Ukraine, the main push of Russia’s army has been to encircle Kyiv, which has seen them readying to transfer manpower and resources from the South and East.
Notably, Russian forces have reportedly withdrawn from Bucha and the Hostomel airport near Kyiv.
Other offensive operations are still being carried out throughout the country, and Ukraine is particularly worried that Russia will attempt to involve Belarusian troops in the conflict.
Also Friday, Belarus strengthened its air defenses along the perimeter of its border in line with an order from President Alexander Lukashenko, a senior military official said.
But despite the seemingly slow progress made by Russian forces in the face of unexpectedly fierce resistance from Ukraine and severe logistical issues, Putin claims that this isn’t actually the case. According to the Russian president, the invasion, which he refers to as a “special military operation,” isn’t just doing well, it’s going exactly according to his plan from the start.
“The special military operation is proceeding in strict accordance with the schedule, according to the plan. All the assigned tasks are being successfully solved,” Putin said Thursday at a meeting with the Russian Security Council, according to the RIA news agency.
Regardless, the Ukrainian military has expressed confidence in their resistance to the Russian forces.
“The enemy is suffering losses in every direction. Demotivated occupiers are surrendering and throwing away their equipment,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces said.
“The struggle continues! Victory will be ours! Glory to Ukraine!”
According to the Ukrainian military, Russia has so far suffered around 9,166 casualties in the invasion of Ukraine. Losses also include 251 tanks, 105 artillery systems, 33 aircraft, 37 helicopters, 939 armored combat vehicles, two speedboats and three drones.
Russia has put Ukraine’s casualties as of Wednesday at over 2,870 deaths and around 3,700 wounded, while their own casualties were just 498 killed and 1.597 wounded, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday, according to TASS.
The Ukrainian military said they had scuttled their navy’s flagship, which was under repair, to ensure it wouldn’t fall into the hands of Russian forces. However, the navy has vowed to build a new, modern fleet.
According to the United Nations, at least 227 civilians have died in the fighting, though the real number is likely much higher.