The reorientation of military efforts Russia in Donbas could portend a “longer and more prolonged conflict” as Ukrainian forces put up fierce resistance in that eastern region of the country, a senior US defense official said on Thursday.
“They have been fighting for it for eight years now,” the official said of the highly disputed region of donbas.
“Ukrainians know the territory very, very well,” he added. “They still have a lot of strength there and they are fighting very hard for that area,” he said.
“Just because (the Russians) prioritize it and deploy more troops or energy there doesn’t mean it will be easy for them,” the official said.
“It could be the harbinger of a longer, more extensive conflict, as the russians trying to gain some influence, make some progress and maybe even have some chips for the negotiation table,” he surmised.
Sergei Rudskoi, Russia’s top military commander, said last week that the first phase of the campaign in Ukraine was finished and that the troops would concentrate on “the main goal: the liberation of Donbas”, where the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk were self-proclaimed.
The US official also said that the Russian military was continuing to reposition forces around Kyiv after having failed in his attempt to conquer her.
“Obviously they are making decisions to alter their goals and objectives,” he said.
He also said that fighting continues in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol and in Kharkiv to the east, but russians they don’t get “great results”.
“We believe that one of the reasons why they love Mariupol is that from there they can move north,” he estimated.
“The Ukrainians are fighting very, very hard inside the city,” he said.
For his part, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby reported that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin decided to keep around 7,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division in Europealong with the Harry Truman aircraft carrier response group.
“They’re not going anywhere for the foreseeable future,” Kirby said. “We want to monitor the situation on the ground and make the best decisions in real time.”
United States it had sent an additional 20,000 troops to Europe as the Russian invasion approached in order to reassure allied countries neighboring Ukraine, which feared the conflict would reach their territory.
The Pentagon spokesman added that in the longer term the United States would consult with allies “to decide what would be the appropriate military posture in Europe, whatever the outcome of this war and whatever the date it ends, security in Europe will have changed.” And we will have to answer.”