Two-thirds of Russian troops have withdrawn from Kyiv after a failed siege, a senior Pentagon official said Monday. Most of the personnel have been sent back to Belarus with plans to redeploy elsewhere in Ukraine.
“They have about a third left of the forces that they had arrayed against Kyiv,” the official said on grounds of anonymity, according to AFP.
“We do begin to see them consolidating in Belarus. What we continue to believe is that they’re going to be refit, resupplied, perhaps maybe even reinforced with additional manpower, and then sent back into Ukraine to continue fighting elsewhere.”
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The move comes as Ukraine forces thwarted Russia’s plans to capture the capital and replace the government.
Western military analysts have called the withdrawal a significant defeat for the Russians, but Moscow suggested it wants to focus its military efforts on the country’s southeast Donbas region. In Donbas, Moscow has joined hands with pro-Russia secessionist forces.
However, so far, there hasn’t been any signs of the withdrawn troops moving to Donbas.
“We haven’t seen them begin to move,” the official said, adding that there are high chances that Russian force will “become more aggressive” in the Donbas region.
Meanwhile, the unnamed official also did not deny reports of Ukraine’s Western allies planning to supply the war-torn country with tanks made in the former Soviet Union to continue their counterattack on Russian forces.
“We continue to discuss and talk with allies and partners about security assistance for Ukraine,” the official said. “But these decisions about what a nation provides to Ukraine are national decisions that they have to make for themselves.”
The invasion of Ukraine began nine weeks ago on February 24, but, even after the long duration, there hasn’t been signs of situations cooling off in the region.
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The fight over the country continues in Mariupol, but “there are no indications that the Russians have made any progress” in taking the city, the official told CNN.
He also assessed the situation around Kherson. “We assess that in the Kherson area, as we’ve been talking about for the last few days, the Russians have kind of gotten pinched between Kherson and Mykolaiv. We now assess that they’ve shifted much more to a defensive posture around Kherson,” he added.