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Russians Shifting Their Fighting Focus to Eastern Ukraine, Says DOD Official

April 11, 2022 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The Russians are now concentrating their combat activity, resupply and reinforcement mostly in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, a senior Defense Department official said at a press briefing today.

That's a change from the first part of their invasion, when Russian forces were trying to advance on Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.

A soldier works beside a tactical vehicle.
Stryker Halt
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tiana Trent, an avenger master gunner in the 5th Battalion 4th Air Defense Artillery Defense Regiment, halts the Stryker in position for staging, March 9, 2022, near Rutja, Estonia.
Photo By: Army National Guard Sgt. Ryan S. Gay
VIRIN: 220309-Z-XE576-1176C

Lines of Russian vehicles are now headed toward Izyum, but they're still north of that city. This convoy is believed to include command and control elements, a support battalion, perhaps rotary wing aviation support, and other infantry support, the official said.

"It's clear evidence of what we've been saying for a while now that the Russians are going to want to pour more of their assets into the Donbas," the official said.

There's some evidence that the Russians are beginning to reinforce some of their positions southwest of Donetsk. They're doing that largely with artillery units, the official said.

The DOD does not yet assess this as the beginning of a new offensive, as fighting in the Donbas region has been going on now for eight years, the official said.

A soldier works on an aircraft.
Apache Repair
U.S. Army Sgt. Mathew Koenig, Apache helicopter repairer, assigned to Delta Company, 1-3 Attack Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade zeros the flight control rigs on an AH-64D Apache helicopter at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, April 5, 2022. Zeroing of the rigs is important to ensure the accuracy of the helicopter’s response to the pilots’ controls.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Preston Malizia
VIRIN: 220405-A-FH795-573

In Kharkiv, the DOD assesses that Russian forces remain north of the city but they have not totally left the area as of yet, the official said.

There are indications that Russian forces that were in northern Ukraine and then moved into Belarus, are starting to move to the east, the official said.

Russian movements in southern Ukraine are static now, the official said. Mariupol and Mykolaiv are still in Ukrainian control.

The Russians still have almost a couple dozen ships in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The DOD believes that they are largely focused on resupply efforts, although there has been some limited activity in terms of strikes from the sea into the Donbas region.

A helicopter kicks up dust as it lands.
UH-60 Blackhawk
A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1-214th General Support Aviation Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade lands in simulated hostile territory during a personnel recovery exercise at the Nowa Deba Training Area, Poland, April 4, 2022.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Mort
VIRIN: 220404-A-YQ762-0062

"The Ukrainians have been very nimble and very agile in how and where and when they're placing their air defense systems and we would expect that they would continue to do what they need to do to protect those systems," the official said.

The U.S. continues to supply Ukraine with weapons systems and enablers, the official said. Enablers include such things a night-vision devices, thermal imagery systems and radio communications gear.

"Ukrainians still have very good command and control over their forces," the official said.