A Ukrainian army soldier walks through a defensive trench in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.
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Russia has encountered tougher resistance than it anticipated from Ukrainian troops, said a senior US Defense official, who warned that Moscow still has “significant combat power” left at its disposal.
The United States has indications that the fighting in Ukraine is proceeding in “not quite the way that they are [Moscow] had anticipated, “according to the official, who declined to be named.
“Their [Russians’] momentum, particularly as it comes to Kyiv, has slowed over the last 24 hours, “the official said.
“They have not achieved the progress that we believe they anticipated they would,” said the official, who added that the tempo of the fighting can change at any moment.
About a third of the Russian troops that were placed along Ukraine’s borders have now crossed into Ukraine, according to the US Defense official, who declined to elaborate on the other two-thirds of Russian troops.
Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy warned in the early morning hours Saturday local time that a Russian assault on Kyiv was imminent. Sounds of combat could be heard from within the city on Friday night, according to NBC News.
That US assessment of Friday’s fighting jibes with information the UK Ministry of Defense posted to its official Twitter account at 10 pm GMT on Friday.
The UK ministry said Russian armored units were approaching Kyiv from multiple angles in an attempt to encircle the capital but “continue to face strong resistance from the Ukrainian Armed Forces.” Russian troops made advances throughout Friday, but Ukraine still retains control of its “key cities,” the ministry said.
Significantly, the Ukrainian military authorities still have good command and control over their deployed forces, the US Defense official said.
“Command and control” refers to lines of communication, usually electronic, between military decision-makers and units in the field. Central control is critical if far-flung troops are to act in a coordinated way.
The official said it’s not clear why Ukrainian communications are still functioning.
“We do not believe that the Russians have employed the full scope of their electronic warfare capabilities, and it’s not clear exactly why,” the official said.
Ukrainian air missile defense systems are still working, though they have been degraded by strikes, the official said.
The official gave an update on the number of Russian missiles that had been launched.
“What I can tell you now is that we have seen more than 200 total launches as of this morning,” the official said, adding that the launches have been a mix of both ballistic and cruise missiles.
Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, said Friday that Russia’s attacks have been brutal but “were not as successful as the enemy has planned.”
“The enemy is clearly surprised by the results of the Ukrainian armed forces and volunteers to protect the integrity of our country,” Markarova said. “We see that they didn’t advance the way they planned.”