Russia Has Deployed Two-Thirds of Its Amassed Forces Into Ukraine, U.S. Officials Say

But Moscow’s troops are facing stiff resistance and logistical challenges.

By , a national security and intelligence reporter at Foreign Policy.
A volunteer demonstrates how to prepare Molotov cocktails at the Pravda brewery in Lviv.
A volunteer demonstrates how to prepare Molotov cocktails at the Pravda brewery in Lviv.
A volunteer demonstrates how to prepare Molotov cocktails at the Pravda brewery in Lviv, Ukraine, on Feb. 27. Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images

Russia has deployed two-thirds of its amassed troops into Ukraine, but their advance has slowed, a senior U.S. defense official said in an update to reporters on Sunday. The Russian troops have faced fuel shortages and logistical challenges as well as stiff resistance from the Ukrainian armed forces, the official said.

“Our best estimate is that they did not anticipate the level of resistance that they were going to encounter,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the U.S. Defense Department. 

Russian forces are 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) from the city center of Kyiv, the capital, but there is no evidence that they have been able to seize any Ukrainian cities, the official said. 

Russia has deployed two-thirds of its amassed troops into Ukraine, but their advance has slowed, a senior U.S. defense official said in an update to reporters on Sunday. The Russian troops have faced fuel shortages and logistical challenges as well as stiff resistance from the Ukrainian armed forces, the official said.

“Our best estimate is that they did not anticipate the level of resistance that they were going to encounter,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the U.S. Defense Department. 

Russian forces are 30 kilometers (about 19 miles) from the city center of Kyiv, the capital, but there is no evidence that they have been able to seize any Ukrainian cities, the official said. 

Despite heavy Russian airstrikes on the Ukrainian air force and air defense systems, Moscow has not yet managed to wrest full control over the skies, the official said. 

The United Nations said that as of Saturday, at least 64 civilians had been killed and 240 injured but noted that the actual figures were likely to be significantly higher.

Military experts note that Russia has thus far sought to minimize civilian casualties, but the senior U.S. defense official said there were signs that Moscow was beginning to use siege tactics around the city of Chernihiv, to the north of Kyiv, which could pose an increased risk to civilians. “A siege basically becomes an all-out effort to take a city without regard for civilian infrastructure,” the official said. 

Despite the setbacks experienced by invading Russian forces, they still had significant operational advantages, said the official, who underscored that a third of the troops amassed around the border of Ukraine had yet to be deployed. 

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin put the country’s nuclear forces on alert, accusing NATO powers of making “aggressive statements.” The move puts Russia’s nuclear weapons at an increased state of readiness, as tensions between Moscow and the West spiral over Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. 

The senior U.S. defense official described the move as “unnecessary” and “escalatory” but would not comment on whether the United States had changed its strategic defense posture in response, citing a Pentagon policy of not publicly discussing the status of its nuclear deterrent. 

“I would just tell you that we remain confident in our ability to defend ourselves and our allies and our partners, and that includes in the strategic deterrent realm,” the official said.

With additional reporting by Jack Detsch. 

Amy Mackinnon is a national security and intelligence reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @ak_mack

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