Russia struck the port cities of Mariupol and Odessa with missiles on Tuesday, while Ukrainian forces launched a fierce counteroffensive north, reportedly pushing Russian troops back to the border as the two sides reached what U.S. intelligence officials described as a long-standing “stalemate”. “” for months or even years.
Developments on multiple fronts in Ukraine do not appear to alter the broader trajectory of the war, which is approaching its third month and has claimed thousands of lives, shook the global economy and sent international energy prices soaring. The Russian army remains focused on taking full control of the disputed Donbass region, but has faced stiff resistance from Ukrainian fighters, including some 2,000 soldiers hiding in a sprawling steel factory in Mariupol.
North of Kharkiv, Ukrainian officials said a counteroffensive drove enemy troops back from the city, potentially opening the way for a Ukrainian blow to Russia’s supply line to Donbass.
But senior Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday that they would not only defeat the Russian offensive but also reclaim all the territory. The comments suggest that Ukraine, buoyed by victories on the battlefield in recent weeks, wants to regain full control of Crimea, which Russian troops forcibly annexed in 2014 and has since occupied.
Leading U.S. officials acknowledge that Ukraine has significant advantages in key aspects of the war, particularly troop morale. But they also cautioned that neither side currently appears capable of winning any decisive victory, meaning the conflict could drag on indefinitely.
“The Russians didn’t win, the Ukrainians didn’t win, we’re at an impasse,” Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats.
SEE ALSO: U.S. intelligence thinks Ukraine war is deadlocked; Russia’s nuclear war intensifies
In testimony to the three-star general, National Intelligence Director Avril Haynes also said that Russian forces have struggled to take over Ukraine since the start of the campaign on February 24 and are regrouping to focus on the eastern part of the country. fighting.
“The Russians encountered more resistance than they expected from Ukraine, and their own military performance revealed some significant internal challenges, forcing them to adjust their initial military objectives, retreating from Kyiv and focusing on the Donbass,” she said. Say.
However, Ms Haynes said intelligence analysts did not believe the current fighting in the Donbass would end the conflict and that Russian President Vladimir Putin was determined to drag out the fight. His ultimate goal still appears to be control of the entire country.
“We assess that President Putin is preparing for a protracted conflict in Ukraine, during which he intends to achieve his goals outside the Donbass,” she said.
Ms Haynes said it was “increasingly unlikely” that Russia would expand control over key areas of eastern Ukraine in the coming weeks, and the conflict was turning into a war of attrition as Ukrainian forces were unlikely to prevail.
General Beryl also described the conflict as a “war of attrition” that would be more beneficial to the Ukrainian army.
SEE ALSO: Putin unhappy with Russia’s defeat in Ukraine during WWII Victory Day parade
“I think the Ukrainians are right about courage and defending the country,” he said, adding that Russian conscripts brought in from remote areas did not have the same fighting spirit.
That fighting spirit seems to be paying off. Ukrainian forces also drove enemy troops from the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, after defeating Russia’s attempt to seize the capital, Kyiv. Russian troops have been stationed on the outskirts of the city since the early days of the war.
Yuri Sachs, an adviser to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksi Reznikov, told Reuters: “The military operation of the Ukrainian armed forces around Kharkiv, especially north and northeast of Kharkiv, was a success. s story.”
“The Ukrainian army was able to push these criminals out of reach of their artillery fire,” he said.
Russian troops have had less success in the Donbass region, but have failed to capture Mariupol despite weeks of heavy bombardment. Occupying the city would provide Russia with a land bridge from Donbass to the Crimean peninsula, allowing it to link its forces in the two regions and create a larger base of operations and more secure supply lines.
On Tuesday alone, Russia launched at least 34 strikes at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said. Russian troops have also targeted Odessa, a strategically important port city that serves as the main route for the transport of food and supplies in Ukraine.
The Russian attack came a day after Putin commemorated Russia’s “Victory Day” holiday to mark the end of World War II, as he fully defended his war in Ukraine. He has not declared any victory in the conflict or proposed a formal declaration of war, which would give the Russian government a new legal basis to develop a draft to complement its ranks.
Instead, Mr Putin described the war in historical terms and accused the West of deep anti-Russian bias.
“The danger is increasing every day. Russia has repulsed this aggression in a preventive manner. This is the only right decision, and a timely one – the decision of an independent, sovereign and powerful country,” Putin said .
But most agree that Mr. Putin expects a quick victory. Instead, he encountered a resilient Ukrainian army armed with American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles and other cutting-edge weapons.
Ukrainian officials now appear to have their sights set on higher goals than simply repelling Mr Putin’s incursion. In an interview with the Financial Times, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba appeared to hint that his country believes it can drive Russia out of the Donbass entirely, and possibly even retake Crimea.
“In the first months of the war, our victories looked like Russian troops retreating to the positions they occupied before February 24 and paying for the damage,” he said. “Now, if we are strong enough on the military front, we win the Donbass campaign, which is crucial to the dynamics of the war that follows. Of course, our victory in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territory.”
This article is based in part on the Cable Services report.