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Military briefing: Russia tightens the encirclement of southern Ukraine

The capture of Kherson, a strategic port city on the Dnipro Plain, signaled the success of a solid Russian operation. into southern Ukrainewhile its armies in the north and east of the country struggled to capture important targets.

Kherson, the first major city to fall as the invasion of Ukraine entered its second week, was brought into the country from Russian-occupied Crimea – exercising strategic interests across the southern coast and seeking to cut Kyiv’s access to the Black Sea.

Mayor Kherson said Russian troops appeared to be in control of the city, confirming Russia’s claims. Ukraine has yet to confirm the loss of the city.

That success is the opposite of slow progress was carried out by the invading army south from Belarus to encircle and capture the main target of Kyiv, and failed to capture Kharkiv, where Ukrainian forces held back. attack wave from the armies that had entered the east of the country from Russia.

Russia has continued to increase its deployment in Ukraine in recent days, with 82% of a pre-assembled force of 150,000 troops now taking part in the invasion.

“We don’t see any indication that Putin feels the need to bring in reinforcements from elsewhere. [Russia],” said John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman. “He started building this combat power starting in the early fall and has more than 150,000 troops, more than 120 tactical battalions.”

The Pentagon says one reason Russia has had fewer obstacles south is because it has shorter supply lines because it is near Crimea, the peninsula it annexed eight years ago. “They’ve been in Crimea since 2014, so they’ve built a pretty sophisticated and sane architecture to support their operations,” Kirby said.

Russian forces have also surrounded the southeastern city of Mariupol from the east and west and are heavily shelling its center, local officials said. The city is Ukraine’s last holdout preventing Russia from securing the entire land corridor from Crimea to territories held by Kremlin-backed separatists since 2014.

The capture of Kherson provides an opportunity for the Russian military to move westward toward Mykolaiv, with the ultimate aim of capturing the major western port of Odesa, thereby gaining full control, Western defense officials say. Ukraine’s coastline. Officials say Russia has yet to make “any significant moves” toward Odesa, but has built a naval frigate nearby.

Aside from using ships to launch Kalibr cruise missiles in the initial bombardment that heralded the start of the invasion last Thursday, Moscow’s navy has so far played a limited role in the invasion. fight.

According to US and British intelligence officials, Russia had deployed 10 amphibious ships in the Black Sea before the invasion, but staged only a small landing of naval troops.

Western analysts and officials say Moscow’s substantial gains southwards also provide a potential basis for advancing north along the Dnipro towards Kyiv.

Russia has said that its military has control of the territory surrounding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, 200 km from Kherson to Dnipro. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the global nuclear watchdog, urged the Russian military to avoid nuclear sites and allow staff to resume normal work.

Russia’s interest in southern Ukraine comes as its military tries to break through Ukraine’s defenses around Kharkiv and Kyiv. Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, has been hit by rocket, missile and artillery attacks in recent days.

At the same time, widespread logistics and supply problems have prevented a large convoy of Russian troops, tanks and weapons from planning to surround and attack Kyiv, Western officials said.

“They’ve lost a sense of momentum here, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t have the power at their disposal,” says Kirby.

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