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Some Russian Forces Disengage From Kyiv, but Airstrikes Continue

March 31, 2022 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Although some Russian forces continue to disengage from positions north and east of the Ukrainian capital, airstrikes continue, and Kyiv is still in danger, a senior defense official said today.

"We haven't observed that much of a difference over the last 24 hours, so I'd still roughly leave it at about 20 percent or so," the official said. "There hasn't been … a wholesale movement, at least not at this point."

Earlier this week, Russian officials had announced they were going to de-escalate the attacks on Kyiv and concentrate on the eastern Ukrainian provinces, but defense officials continue to see attacks on Kyiv. "I would say that … despite the rhetoric of de-escalation, we're still observing artillery fire and airstrikes in and around Kyiv," the official said. "They're still fighting to the north of Kyiv. As these forces begin to reposition, the Ukrainians are moving against them."

A soldier with a rifle stands guard as fellow a soldier descends from a helicopter.
Ukrainian Soldier
A Ukrainian soldier provides security as a fellow soldier descends from a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter during Rapid Trident 2021 at Combat Training Center-Yavoriv in Ukraine, Sept. 21, 2021. Rapid Trident involves 6,000 troops from 15 partner countries.
Photo By: Army Spc. Preston Hammon
VIRIN: 210921-A-QM520-0027C

In southern and eastern Ukraine, fighting continues, and Russian invaders have made little progress, including in the city of Mariupol. "The Ukrainians are fighting very, very tough inside the city," the official said.

Overall, the airspace over Ukraine remains contested with the Russians launching around 300 sorties yesterday. As of today, the Russians have launched more than 1,400 missiles. "There's nothing new in the maritime environment to speak to," he said.

The repositioning of Russian forces from Kyiv indicates that Russian military leaders know they have failed to take the capital city, the official said. "They have been under increased pressure elsewhere around the country because they are obviously making decisions to alter their goals and objectives," he said.

Russian morale continues to suffer. "We have continued to see unit cohesion issues, command and control problems [and] problems with faulty leadership," the official said.

Officials have said they have heard anecdotes about poor morale and poor performance on the battlefield, but admitted "it's anecdotal; we can't say with certainty that it's uniformly across all the force that they have in Ukraine."

Still, these anecdotes reinforce some of the core problems experienced by the Russian military, including the lack of any kind of professional noncommissioned officer corps. "This is an operation of armed conflict on the scale that the Russians have not attempted in a very, very, very long time on multiple lines of axes," the official said.

There has been poor coordination between elements and subordinate commands, and there have been vast problems with logistics and sustainment.

The Russian military depends largely on conscripts, and there is evidence that the regime of President Vladimir Putin has not been honest with its troops. "It's a military that doesn't have a noncommissioned officer corps the way that the West does; so, you're not seeing a lot of small-unit leadership or even any initiative at lower levels," the official said. "It's a very top-down driven military, and we think that some of the problems they have directly result from that leadership organizational structure."