Over the weekend, Russian forces withdrew from Kherson in Ukraine, a city of more than 280,000. It's a big win for the Ukrainian people and for its military, one senior military official said during a briefing today at the Pentagon.
"The most significant development over the weekend was the Russian military's withdrawal from Kherson City and the west bank of the Dnipro River," the official said. "While we continue to monitor, we do assess that Russian forces have relocated onto the eastern side of the river and established their defensive lines, thus ceding a significant amount of territory to the Ukrainians to include your Kherson City."
The official said Ukrainian forces continue to consolidate gains and are now busy clearing obstacles and mines left behind by the Russians. The Ukrainians are also assessing the damage done by the Russian occupiers before they departed; the official said indications are that the Russians did significant damage to civilian infrastructure in Kherson, including water and other utility systems.
"The Russians don't appear inclined to depart the rest of occupied Ukraine, [and] there's undoubtedly still tough fighting ahead," the official said. "But the liberation [of] Kherson City is a significant accomplishment and a testament to the grit, determination and tenacity of the Ukrainian people and their armed forces as they fight to defend their nation."
As winter approaches, it's possible that fighting in Ukraine might slow. But official said plans for U.S. support isn't predicted to slow, as that support is not predicated on weather, but on what the Ukrainians say they need.
"We will continue to work with them, alongside our international allies and our partners, to ensure that they have what they need to succeed on the battlefield," the official said. We're prepared to do that for as long as it takes."
The official said the department has seen Russian missile and drone strikes slow down some since the end of October, but that the Russians do continue to strike at civilian infrastructure, such as the Ukrainian electrical grid.
"Air defense continues to be a priority for the Ukrainians," the official said. "This continues for us to be an area of discussion in terms of how the United States and the international community can continue to support them when it comes to their defense needs."
Last week, the U.S. announced an additional security package for Ukraine that’s valued at $400 million. That package is part of some $18.6 billion in assistance the U.S. has committed to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's unprovoked invasion.
Included in that presidential drawdown package were missiles for the HAWK air defense system, along with four Avenger air defense systems and Stinger missiles. Both of those contributions to Ukrainian defense assist them with air defense. The Avenger system, for instance, can help protect against cruise missiles, helicopters and unmanned aerial systems.
The package also included, among other things, 20,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition and cold weather protective gear.