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Russia Possibly Repositioning Forces to Donbas

March 31, 2022 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

About 20 percent of the Russian forces to the north of Kyiv are repositioning, and while American officials do not know where they are going, they don't think they are going home. 

A small number of Russian forces are beginning to reposition from their attack on Ukraine's capital, Kyiv. "It is not exactly clear … where they're going to go, for how long and for what purpose, but we don't see any indication that they're going to be sent home," said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby. 

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The best assessment is these troops will reposition to Belarus where they will refit, get resupplied and then be moved back into Ukraine, possibly into the Donbas region, Kirby said. "It's clear the Russians want to reprioritize their operations in the Donbas area [and] that could be one destination, but again, [it's] too soon to know," he said. "We don't really have a good sense of it." 

Kirby also discussed how long the American troops deployed to Europe will remain in the region. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III ordered the first of those troops to deploy from the United States in February. Most are now in the frontline NATO states of the Baltic Republics, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. 

"I think the Secretary wants to keep his options open," Kirby said. Austin ordered just under 20,000 troops to the region on temporary orders.  

Helos at sunset.
Helos at Sunset
Task Force Palehorse assigned to the 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, arrives in Poland, Feb. 25, 2022. The Air Cavalry Brigade moved AH-64 Apaches and UH-60 Blackhawks from Greece to Poland as part of its ironclad commitment to its NATO allies and partners.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Agustin Montanez
VIRIN: 220225-Z-XG945-1561

"We'll take each one as it comes and the secretary will decide whether that capability needs to stay – yes or no – and then does it need to be that unit, or do we need to rotate that unit out," the press secretary said. "Thus far, nobody has been rotated out. Everybody that the secretary has ordered in, is going to stay in." 

No decision has been made for those forces. The same is true of the USS Harry S. Truman carrier Strike Group in the Mediterranean, Kirby said. The Truman "will stay in the Mediterranean until the secretary decides that it's time for the ship to rotate out." 

A man speaks from a podium.
News Conference
Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby speaks during a press briefing, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., March 31, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany Chase
VIRIN: 220331-F-BM568-1080

Finally, Kirby said the aid to Ukraine has been moving at light speed for the federal government. He said the $350 million of equipment that President Joe Biden authorized Feb. 26 – just two days after the Russian invasion – "was completed in a record three weeks," Kirby said.  

Another $200 million worth of equipment and supplies have also been delivered. "Then the $800 million that the president approved 10 days ago … those shipments are already arriving," he said. "In fact, from the time he signed the order to the first shipment going on its way, it was four days." 

Every shipment to Ukraine is a mixture of weapons systems, support and sustainment. This includes food, body armor, helmets, small arms ammunition, medical and first aid kits. These are in addition to the Javelin anti-armor weapons and the anti-air Stinger systems.