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Ukrainian Military Fighting Bravely Against Russian Invaders

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Ukrainian service members are fighting bravely — and effectively — for their country against the massive Russian onslaught, a senior defense official said at the Pentagon today.

The official, speaking on background, said Russian forces attacking toward the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv are going slower than they anticipated. "They are meeting more resistance than they expected," the official said.

Austin speaks with U.S. service members in Poland.
Austin and Airmen
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with U.S. airmen during an engagement with U.S. and Polish military members at Powidz Air Base, Poland, Feb 18, 2022. Austin toured the base to observe the culture and conditions of the rotational presence.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Izabella Workman
VIRIN: 220218-F-OA820-0030C

The invasion, launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 23, is designed to "decapitate" the Ukrainian government so Russia can install its own puppet regime, DOD officials said.

The attack on the capital is just one of three axes that the Russians are attacking through. The second one is aimed at Kharkiv in the northeastern part of the country and fighting continues in that region. A third attack in the south seems to be splitting with Russian forces aiming northwest toward Kyiv and northeast toward Mariupol west of that city, Russian amphibious ships are landing naval infantry. "The general assumption is that they will move … towards the northeast towards Mariupol and the Donbass region," the official said.

"What we've seen over the last 24 hours, we do assess that there is greater resistance by the Ukrainians than the Russians expected," the official said.

"We also assess over the last 24 hours that in general … the Russians have lost a little bit of their momentum," he said. "They are not advancing as far or as fast as we believe they expected they would do. A good indicator of that is no population centers have been taken."

The official said that Russia has yet to achieve air superiority over Ukraine. "Ukrainian air missile defense systems are still working, though they were degraded by strikes," he said.

Airmen service F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in Estonia.
Lightning II Crew
Two Air Force F-35 Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrive at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Feb. 24, 2022. Aircraft and crews will work closely with allies to reinforce regional security during the current tensions caused by Russia's continuing military build-up near Ukraine.
Photo By: Courtesy Photo
VIRIN: 220224-F-F3253-0003C

This includes Ukrainian aircraft that continue to engage and deny air access to Russian aircraft.

Russia continues to fire missiles into Ukraine with the total number up to around 200 since the invasion began. These are a combination of ballistic and cruise-launched missiles from land, sea and air.

Officials estimate the Russians have about a third of the forces they amassed on Ukraine's borders and in Belarus inside Ukraine now.

Finally, he noted that Ukrainian command and control of its military is still working and that officials are still able to coordinate movements, get supplies where they are needed, target the enemy and so on.

There have certainly been casualties, but the official would not hazard a guess to the extent. "While I can't give you exact numbers, we certainly don't think that it has been bloodless," the official said. "In just the last 24 hours that there have been, there has been loss of life. There have been casualties, and each and every one of them could have been avoided if Mr. Putin had taken advantage of the diplomatic options he still had available to him. [This is] his war, his choice and these are on his hands, and I think that's important to continue to remember."

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