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Transcript

Senior Defense Official Holds a Background Briefing

May 10, 2022
Senior Defense Official

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Hey, everybody. Can you hear me? Can anybody hear me?

Q: Yep, we've got you.

Q: We can hear you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks. I didn't know if I pushed the right buttons on this phone or not. Okay, I apologize, I'm a little bit late. (Inaudible).

Not a whole lot of changes on the ground to speak to. In -- in fact, really nothing very significant. We still assess Russian ground force in the Donbas to be slow and uneven. Most of their energy seems to be focused between Izyum and Slovyansk. Again, that was a line of approach that we had talked about before and that's where, again, most of the ground activity seems to have -- seems to have taken place over the last 24 hours.

Airstrikes continue, bombardment, artillery fire in the Donbas and certainly around Mariupol as well. Airstrikes in Mariupol. So no major changes there. And we have seen some -- some additional limited standoff strikes on Odesa.

And the Russians are also flying combat air patrols near Snake Island. That's a -- a -- I think -- we think, an outgrowth of the -- of the attacks that the Ukrainians conducted there in the last few days.

Their Russian sortie count is up over 300 now, so that is a -- that is a -- an increase from what we've -- from what we've seen in the past. And we largely talked about them being between 2 and 300. They're up over 300 in the last 24 hours. And again, their airstrikes are focused on the Donbas, Mariupol, some standoff strikes on Odesa.

No major changes to Russian naval posture to speak of. They are still maintaining a standoff distance in the maritime domain.

(inaudible) -- again, towns and villages continue to change hands. I mean, we would assess today that Popasna is in Russian control, but again, we'll keep watching this over -- over time. Popasna is just to the east of Slovyansk. And we have talked about Popasna before.

But again, it's -- there's a lot of back and forth, and still, we would not assess that the Russians have made any appreciable or significant progress in the -- in the Donbas.

They are up to -- Russians are up to about what we -- we're counting 99 operational BTGs inside Ukraine. So over the last 24, they added two. We believe that these two were airborne BTGs and it's not exactly clear where they went. I -- and we tend to -- we tend to think that -- that they've put them into the south but it's not a -- it's not 100 percent certain.

On the security assistance front, virtually all of the 90 howitzers are now transferred to -- to Ukrainian possession. I think there's one remaining, so we've got, you know, 89 of 90 are in Ukrainian possession. Of the ammunition, again, the total count of 184,000 -- what was committed to us -- or what we committed to them, again, 65 percent, so almost 120,000 rounds, are in.

No major changes in other stuff to offer today. I could -- I can say that of these extra 11 Mi-17s that we talked about, the first one of those 11 is going in today. And I'm not going to get ahead of the deliveries of the other ones. Obviously we want to protect that.

On training, almost 370 Ukrainian soldiers have now completed M777 training. Again, not all of it is conducted by us, not all of it is in one place. There's another 30 Ukrainian soldiers that are completing -- wrapping up their maintain -- maintenance course. And let's see -- another 17 or so are continuing with that main -- maintenance course. So they've got -- it's a -- it's a two week course and so about -- like I said, 29 are -- have finished it, there's another 17 going through it right now.

The First -- first -- I think we talked about this yesterday -- the first group that went through the Q-64 training is complete. There's another group of 15 that will -- that'll -- that are in that training now, go through the middle of this month. 60 Ukrainian soldiers have completed training on the M113, the armored personnel carrier. Nearly 50 have completed the second iteration yesterday and then they'll -- they'll be heading back in soon.

They're -- let's see -- some of you guys asked me on the Phoenix Ghost. I think we talked about this but there is training for -- for a small number ongoing outside of Ukraine on the Phoenix Ghost. There have been others ahead of them that -- that have already returned to Ukraine. So that's ongoing.

And I think that's it. I -- on the missile strikes, I'm -- I'm still working it out with EUCOM. I don't have an update for you today. We've got an RFI in for that and we'll -- I know you -- I know it's of interest, I got it. We -- we have made the RFI but I don't have the answer, but if I can get it today, I'll get it today.

Okay, with that, we'll go to questions. Lita?

Q: Hi, thanks.

One just on Odesa. Can you -- has the U.S. assessed that indeed Russia used hypersonic weapons in some of the recent strikes against Odesa? And can you talk a little bit about sort of the ongoing fight there? It seems to have picked up a bit over the last several days. What sort of damage is being done?

And then I have -- sort of the second thing, does the Pentagon know much about this alleged rescue of an American citizen who was living in Ukraine? This Project Dynamo, is there anything you all can shed light on that at all?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: What was your second question? I didn't understand your second question.

Q: Do you have any -- can you shed any light on this alleged rescue of an American citizen by this group called Project Dynamo? Are you aware of it?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: No, no, no. I got that one, Lita. The short answer to that one is, no, we don't have anything on that. But you had another question after the hypersonics one that I did not get.

Q: Sorry, the hypersonics, it was just --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Are you there?

Q: Yes, I'm here. Sorry, the hypersonics question was also just more broadly also on Odesa as a whole, what the impact of these -- what has been kind of an increase in strikes there has been.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Okay.

So on hypersonics, no indications that -- that we've seen that hypersonics have been used on Odesa, certainly nothing we can confirm. I mean, obviously we've seen them use hypersonics in the past in hitting -- hitting buildings. But I don't have anything to indicate that they were used in Odesa. If that that changes, obviously, we'll let you know. But it's difficult -- again, we don't get real clear senses of -- of BDA on these strikes, as we've said from the very beginning on this. So I can't speak with great specificity as to what they think they are hitting versus what they are actually hitting and what damage has been done.

We've -- these strikes have been sporadic in Odesa. They have picked up over the last few days, to be sure, but it's not clear what -- what they are actually trying to get at there and what -- and what they're hitting. Again, we think that part of this could be an effort to continue to draw the Ukrainians' attention towards Odesa. And remember, Odesa is still, basically -- even though the Russian ships have kept a distance, essentially, they still have a blockade. And so nothing economically is coming in and out of Odesa for Ukraine's benefit. It could be that these airstrikes are of a piece of this effort to limit Odesa's ability economically. But, quite frankly, from a maritime environment, they have already done that. So, it's just not perfectly clear what they are trying to do there. Again, one assessment is that it could just be a fixing function there, to try to make sure that the Ukrainians stay geographically tied to that that part of the coastline.

So I'm just -- I'm looking at something that they just handed me. Again, yes, we just don't have a good sense of what the targets were based on what was just handed me a minute ago.

So and nothing on the Dynamo thing. I -- we just don't have anything on that. I'm sorry.

Pierre?

Q: (inaudible), I believe you said yesterday that you are not seeing any ability of the Russians to move on Odesa. Can you elaborate a little bit about the assessment about their forces and -- around this area? And also in general, are we still at 75 percent of capacity?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: 25 percent of capacity?

Q: 75.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Oh, I don't have any -- any updates on their -- we would still assess that they have a -- a -- a majority of their combat power available to them. I don't have a figure to put on it today. Again, we're kind of changing the way we measure these things. So I've -- I may not be able to give you that -- some overall percentage going forward.

On -- on Odesa, I -- you know, again, what I said yesterday I think still applies -- we haven't seen any -- any indications of a maritime assault or an amphibious assault, we haven't seen any -- any ground movement from the Russians towards Odesa.

Odesa is still solidly in Ukrainian control. There has been these sort of harassing strikes, long range strikes into Odesa, but again, with -- with no clear indication of what they've -- what they're actually trying to target or what impact they're actually having. So we're watching this but this -- this is sort of -- these -- these standoff strikes on Odesa are fairly recent, in terms of a development.

The ground forces that the Russians have in the south, in the southwest really -- they're -- they're still where we said they were yesterday -- they're -- they're still sort of in Kherson and to the west of Kherson a little bit. And Mykolayiv is still in Ukrainian control. And so we are seeing contact between Russians and Ukrainians between Mykolayiv and Kherson, but that's been going on for quite some time. So just no indication that Odesa is under an imminent threat of any kind from some sort of ground or even naval, you know, approach.

Q: If you don't mind, I mean, do they have the capability of launching an attack on Odesa?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: It depends on what you mean by an attack, Pierre. I mean, it -- clearly, they can launch standoff strikes in there, but on the ground, they are being resisted by the Ukrainians between Mykolayiv and Kherson.

They have not -- they have not been able to move anywhere out of that region, nor have we seen really much of an attempt by them to do that. And they are not -- their ships are staying well south. Since the sinking of the Moskva, they have not moved their ships closer to Odesa.

So it's pretty hard to do an amphibious assault if you can't -- you can't put your Marines ashore, and they're not showing any indication or willingness to do that.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Tara Copp?

Q: Good morning. Thanks for doing this.

A couple of follow-ups from earlier this week. On the -- in a call yesterday, a Defense Official talked about the Russians burning through their precision-guided munitions inventory. Could you elaborate a little bit more on the pressures they are facing and their inability to replenish that inventory or what challenges they're facing? I think you were talking in -- in terms of the -- the sanctions, the effects they are having.

And then secondly, on the -- on the -- the indications that the U.S. has that Ukrainians have been taken to camps inside Russia, could you elaborate on what sort of indications you have? Are they satellite images? Are -- is it intercepts? I know you can't talk about intelligence but if you could paint a broad picture of how you're confident that there are Ukrainians being held in camps inside Russia and --

(CROSSTALK)

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: -- I didn't -- I didn't say "confident" yesterday. The -- the -- first of all, the Pentagon Press Secretary said "we've seen indications that some Russians were -- were being taken to -- to Russia."

I'm not going to get into what those indications are or how -- or our level of confidence but it's a mosaic of things, to include open source reporting and -- and -- you know -- and eyewitness accounts that are coming even through the media, but there's -- but I'm not going to get any more detailed than that.

And on the precision-guided front, again, I -- I think -- I don't really have anything new to offer here. We -- we see increasing -- an increasing reliance on dumb bombs, for instance, in Mariupol. We know that they have -- that -- that they are -- they have -- they have burned through quite a bit of their precision-guided munitions. It doesn't mean that they don't have any left but -- but we know that they have -- that they have expended quite a bit.

And we also know that the -- that the sanctions are having a bite on the Russians' ability to replenish those stocks in their defense industrial base. So we know that -- that the sanctions are responsible for -- for making it harder for Mr. Putin to replenish those stocks, particularly when it comes to some of the electronic components that go into precision-guided munitions.

So we -- we -- we do think that he's having some defense industrial base issues and -- and the -- the most obvious way that's being manifested is through -- through the production of precision-guided munitions. And again, there -- have been using quite a -- quite a lot of them.

David Martin?

Q: You described this one avenue of advance south from Izyum to Slovyansk. In -- in the past, you've described sort of different prongs coming down from Izyum. So is it now consolidated into one -- one advance axis or is -- are they still trying to maneuver on Lyman and Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk and all the other towns and villages that you've mentioned earlier?

And in the south, are those 10 BTGs that left Mariupol, are they still dug in? And if so, what are they doing? Are they dug in while they're replenishing or are they just dug in to be dug in?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: So on the -- on the first one, I mean, I -- I think -- I think we still assess that the -- the Russian intent has been to come out of Izyum on sort of those three -- three prongs, but they've -- they've been really stymied on -- on -- on two of them. And where we -- where we've seen the energy -- we have seen applied in the last 24, 48 is really, you know, coming -- trying to -- to come out from Lyman towards Slovyansk. If you just kind of draw a line between Lyman and Slovyansk, that's -- that's where a lot of the energy over the last 24 hours has been applied.

But that doesn't mean that -- you know, that we don't think that they -- you know, that they are still not interested in -- in moving along those other lines of axes towards Kramatorsk and -- and then also due direct south towards Novodonetsk and Dobropillya. I mean -- but they just haven't -- there's just been no progress there. They're -- they're just kind of stuck on those other prongs and the -- the activity that we're seeing is -- is largely along that one, that -- that -- that line from Lyman to Slovyansk. But again, incremental, at best, and they're getting a stiff resistance from Ukraine there.

So I don't think we see this as any sort of a -- a -- a collapsing or consolidation along one axis. It's just that's where the activity is right now.

Q: Do they --

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: And down -- down in the south, I mean we still assess that the -- that the Russian forces that had moved north at Mariupol are still sort of arrayed south of (inaudible), that town that we talked about with the Ukrainians are -- are defending.

The Russians are to the south of the town and sort of arrayed and our general sense is that they are putting themselves in a defensive posture and there hasn't been really any effort, not energy applied to going on the offense towards that town right now. They seem to have set themselves up into defensive -- defensive arrangements is -- is, I guess, the best way to put that.

Q: So do the -- do the Russians now control Lyman?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I don't believe that we would assess that they control Lyman. I've seen no -- I've seen nothing that tells us the Russians are in control of Lyman. But they are moving -- trying to move along that line.

All right, Heather.

Q: Thank you so much.

I was wondering if you can give us a count on how many ships are in the Black Sea right now, including if there is confirmed sightings of Makarov.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: You mean the frigate that everybody said was hit?

Q: Yes.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, so I -- you've got in the Black Sea about 20 ships and I don't have a breakdown by name of all 20 ships. But we haven't seen any -- we still haven't seen anything that -- that validates or can confirm for us the -- you know the social media activity on this -- on this frigate, which was allegedly struck.

We are not in a position to be able to confirm that.

Okay, Tony, go ahead. I know I'm not going to be able to answer your question but go ahead.

Q: Okay, sir. A couple things, is the U.S. training the Ukrainian army in the -- in combined arms tactics. You've criticized the Russians for their lack of prowess and combined arms even though that's their doctorate. When you look at all the stuff we're supplying to Ukrainians, drones, artillery, jamming; it seems like we're equipping them to -- for combined arms offensive operations. You know in general, is that what the -- some of the training's involving?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Training right now -- and we had the trainers on last week with you guys.

Q: Right.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: And I think I -- I think I -- you know he was only willing to go so far and I don't want to go farther than him but I can say that the bulk of the training we're doing right now is really on how they can use these systems and clearly when you're learning a certain system like a UAS, I mean that -- that's a system that lends itself to being used for -- for multiple purposes.

So the training, as I think General Hilbert said last week, the training is really designed to help them learn these systems, particularly systems they aren't familiar with and yes, as an incidental part of the training, you know, the Ukrainians will ask questions about how you might use that system in a different environment or with other -- you know with other capabilities and so we -- you know we do the best we can.

But the -- the focus right now is systems familiarization ending -- and to include now with the howitzers maintenance familiarization, the -- but for eight years when we were in Ukraine and we're -- and we're training the Ukrainian army with other allies like the Canadians and like the Brits, we absolutely were teaching them how to do small unit leadership, battlefield command and control, operational maneuver, combined arms warfare.

I mean so the idea of combined arms warfare is not alien to the Ukrainians.

Q: Okay. And what -- one question on air superiority we were asking you a lot about this when the -- they were attacking Kyiv. Do the Russians now have air superiority or is it the same situation where U.S. and U.K. supplied anti-air systems like stinger are basically denying air superiority even though their sortie generation rates increased?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We do not. We still assess the airspace over Ukraine to be contested and that is to a very large degree about how nimble the Ukrainians have been in air defense, not just short defense with Stingers but -- but with the -- with longer range air defense systems. I mean like that's why the -- you know when we were talking about the S-300s going in and Slovakia providing that system was so important to give them long-range air defense.

And one of the reasons we know it's -- it's working is because we continue to see the Russians wary of venturing into Ukrainian air space at all and if they do they don't stay very long. Most of their air strikes are -- well, almost all of them are launched and recovered inside Russia and they -- and they try to do these standoff strikes so that they don't have to enter Ukrainian air space.

And I think that says -- that speaks volumes about how contested the air space is over there.

Q: Okay. So 300, even though they've increased over 300, the numeric number of sorties shouldn't be seen as indication that they've -- they control the air?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: That is correct.

Q: Okay, thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Bill Gould.

Q: Thanks for taking my question. Sorry.

We've been getting a running tally of the percentage of howitzers that -- that have gone in. But I'm wondering if we could get some sort of tally on Stingers and Javelins. Has the U.S. sent 100 percent of the -- of the Stingers and Javelins that it planned to or is there -- or is it a lesser percentage?

Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: There hasn't been -- you know the last couple of PDAs hasn't really included Stingers and Javelins. So I -- you know it's not -- we're -- they've had -- they've gotten -- they received more than 5,500 Javelins from the United States alone. And we're not the only ones that have provided them Javelins. And in terms of Stingers, almost 1,500.

So the exact number that we're committed have been delivered. About 1,500 were committed about 1,500 have been delivered. On the Javelin missiles, more than 5,500 were committed, more than 5,550 are delivered. So I don't really have any updates on those.

Q: All right. Thanks.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes. Paul Handley.

Q: Hi, (inaudible). Can you hear me today?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes, I got you.

Q: Okay. Following up on Tony's question, do the Russians have affective air superiority in the Donbas region and over the Black Sea? Are they patrolling or are they just doing quick strikes, mission strikes. And how far can they reach into Ukraine area?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: This -- again, we do not assess that the Russians have air superiority over Ukraine. It changes from day to day in terms of, you know, where they're most active and where they're not. Although lately it has been mostly focused on the Donbas and down towards Mariupol. But they -- I think maybe there's a -- the word picture here isn't -- maybe I'm not doing a good job of this. They're not flying fixed aircraft in Russian -- in Ukrainian airspace every day all day. We're not seeing patrolling missions over -- they're not like flying CAP over Ukraine. They launch out of Russian airfields. They launch their strikes. Sometimes they don't even leave Russian airspace to launch their strikes, and then go back to base. And if they do venture in to Ukrainian airspace, it's for a very limited amount of time. We've seen that, like, some of the dumb bomb attacks on Mariupol, they had to advance into Ukrainian airspace. They release their payload and then -- and then they get out of Dodge. They're not staying very long.

The standoff strikes that are going into Odesa are also launched from airspace that the Russians are more comfortable in or they're missile strikes. They do not even have to put up a fixed-wing aircraft, or if they do, they don't have to leave Russian airspace to -- to launch into standoff. So, again, every day we update you on what we're seeing. Every day it's different. But right now, this day, it's Mariupol, it's the Donbas, and a few, just a few, I mean, strikes -- standoff strikes into Odesa. That's all we've seen in the last 24.

Do they have the capability of striking deeper into Ukraine? Yes they do. And we have seen in the past, not in the past 24, but in the past we have seen strikes in as far west as the north of Lviv. And certainly they still have the ability to hit Kyiv. But, again, most of those are missile strikes and they -- and the launchers are not in Ukraine. I don't know if that answered it or not.

Q: That pretty much answers. Can I have a follow-up, quickly?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Sure.

Q: We talked a lot for the past few weeks about Popasna. It seems like it was an important battle site. What is the significance of the Russians taking that? What was the, I don't know, strategic, tactical value of taking control of Popasna?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Popasna sits due west of the Luhansk. It's right -- it's right sort of at that -- if you were to draw the line between -- you know, the line of contact between the Russian and Ukrainian forces in the Donbas, I mean, it's sort of right -- it's right on that line. So it -- look, I'm not a military tactician here and I don't want to speak for the Russians and the degree to which they think that -- that's significant, but it's right along that line of contact. So if you're trying to put pressure on the Ukrainians coming from the east, Popasna would be an important location to be able to control.

But, again, I want to stress that these towns and villages change hands. So we're assessing that they have control of Popasna today. We don't know whether that's going remain the case. The Ukrainians get to decide, you know, where they're going to apply pressure and where they're not. And I certainly don't want to get ahead of where things are on the battlefield.

Carla Babb.

Q: Hey, thanks.

Avril Haines today was saying that Putin's strategic goals have probably not changed, and suggesting that the focus to the Donbas is just kind of a temporary shift before he resets to try to take his original goals in Ukraine. Do you agree with that? And can you give us any sort of understanding as to what's helping the U.S. make that sort of assessment?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I would just tell you, from a Defense Department perspective, I mean, it -- it's -- it's not clear to us the degree to which any of Mr. Putin's strategic objectives have changed, and we've said that before.

We don't know -- and again, we've been, I think, very honest about this -- we don't know if he just wants to control the Donbas (inaudible) today and declare victory or does he want to use control of the Donbas to stage -- and again, we've said this -- to stage further attacks further west. We don't know that he's given up on Kyiv particularly. It's just not entirely clear.

So I think we would agree with the DNI, that -- that we don't have a -- an absolute certainty about what Mr. Putin plans to do long term. What we're trying to do and what I try to do with these sessions with you every day is just tell you what we're seeing in the moment and not try to get too speculative about what's going to happen in the future.

Lara Seligman?

Q: Hey, (inaudible). Thanks for doing this.

I wanted to ask you kind of a broader question about Putin's speech or I guess lack of announcement maybe yesterday on Victory Day. Were you surprised that there wasn't more of an announcement, there wasn't -- we didn't hear more from him? And are you anticipating some kind of mass mobilization?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: We were being -- I think we were being very prudent and careful about trying to get too predictive about what -- about what Mr. Putin would say yesterday or what -- or what they -- or what the Russians would do.

We didn't make any predictions, we didn't have a degree of certainty in what we were hearing that led us –- that gave us any sense of comfort that we had an idea of what exactly he was going to do or say. So it -- it -- it wasn't about being surprised. We -- we've, I think, been -- been prudently cautious here about what -- what expectations we might've had for Mr. Putin's public appearance yesterday.

So now that he gave his speech -- I mean, there was no major pronouncement in there, there was no declaration of war, there was no call-up for mobilizations, but, Lara, that doesn't mean that any of those things are -- are not still in the offing going forward.

And again, we're -- we're looking at this as -- as pragmatically as we can, in the moment as much as we can, because we don't have perfect visibility into his thinking or the advice he's getting from his civilian and military leaders.

We -- we assess that he is continuing to add forces into the Donbas. I told you today we're up to 99 BTGs. He continues to suffer casualties, he continues to see some of his capabilities diminished as they engage in combat.

It is -- it is an artillery fight predominantly, which is what, again, the Ukrainians told us it would be and it certainly has panned out to be that way, and -- and he, Mr. Putin, has not achieved any of the major objectives that we believe he wanted to achieve in the Donbas or in the south.

I mean, Mariupol is still contested. He moved 10 BTGs north but he still has the equivalent of two down there and he's still bombing Mariupol because the resistance in that steel plant has not ended. So he has not achieved any of the success that we believe he wanted to achieve, certainly not on the timeline.

I mean, now, we would assess that he's easily two weeks or -- or even maybe more behind where we thought or where he thought he wanted to be in the Donbas and in the south. So there's -- it -- it's just -- it's just not clear what -- how this is going to unfold.

Again, what we're focused on is making sure the Ukrainians can -- can continue to defend their territory there.

Q: Just to follow up quickly -- just to follow up quickly -- this morning, National Intelligence Director Avril Haines said that Putin wanted to create a land bridge from Crimea to Transnistria and Moldova but can't do it without another mobilization. Is that something that is a concern to you and do you think that's what indications are showing?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I -- I'm not -- I'm not going to get more specifically into intelligence assessments of the DNI. We believe that, from a military perspective right now, Mr. Putin is focused on trying to secure the Donbas region and we believe that he wants -- he certainly wants a land bridge to -- to Crimea, which he -- with the exception of Mariupol, he essentially has, and now he wants to refocus some of those troops at -- back in the Donbas.

But from a military perspective, we see the focus on the Donbas. I'm not going to speculate or get ahead of intelligence assessments.

Kellie Meyer?

Q: Thanks, (inaudible).

I have a little bit stemming from that, so feel free to answer what you can, but it also may be things that we discussed before, just basically that the Director of National Intelligence predicted the war is likely to become more unpredictable and escalatory, along with it being prolonged. I believe these are some things that you have also said but I just wanted to see if you could expand on that a little bit.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: There's not much more I can say, Kellie. I mean, we -- we've said from the moment that he started to make clear his intentions to move on the Donbas that given the terrain, given the weather, given the familiarity with both sides with that area, given the heavy dependence on long range fires that we knew was coming, we said from the very beginning that the -- that the fight there could be prolonged, and we still believe that.

I mean, you know, again, we would assess that the Russians are, you know, at -- at about two weeks behind where they wanted to be and they're still (inaudible). So it -- it's difficult to say. I know we'd all love to be able to look at a calendar and say -- and pick a date and say "Okay, it's going to last that long." We just don't know.

Both sides are digging in, both sides are scrapping it out, both sides are shelling each other, and both sides are changing hands in terms of their control over towns and villages and areas every single day.

And it's hard to look at it today and -- and be able to say "Well, this is almost over, it's only got a few days to go" because it's just -- it's very dynamic. You know, yesterday at the briefing, there was this big discussion about whether it's a stalemate or not. It's hard -- it's hard to say that it is when there's just so much relative close range fighting that's going on in some of these areas and the -- and the fact that -- that these towns and villages, you know, continue to -- continue to change -- to change hands.

So I don't know -- that's the best I can do.

Anton from The Economist?

Q: Hi, (inaudible). Thank you for doing this.

I wanted to ask you about talk of trying to get the Ukrainian harvest out by sea or by land. Do you know anything about that and what it would take to reopen, you know, access to and from Odesa, even if temporarily to get the grain out?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: My goodness, let me -- I'll take the question. I don't know the answer to that. I mean, I can just you Odesa remains blockaded and even though the Russians are not right off the coast, they still are able to control the flow of shipping in the northern Black Sea. And they're not letting anything in or out. And short of that -- short of that blockade being lifted or being disrupted by the Ukrainians, it's hard to see how that economic flow would change. But let me -- let me consult people who are a heck of a lot smarter than me on this and see if we can't get you a better answer.

Q: Thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Sure.

Courtney. I've got to -- I've only got -- I have to go in a couple of minutes, guys. I've got a 1:00 I can't miss. So go ahead, Courtney.

Q: Well, you're going to be happy to hear that I don't have a question then.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Oh, I am happy. That's wonderful. A little gift to me.

Oren, CNN.

Q: Just a really quick one. Is there a ballpark number you can give on how many hypersonic weapons the Russians have used, whether it's, you know, just a few, 10, 20, something like that?

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: I would say -- I mean, we don't have a perfect count but we would assess at this time now, you know, 76 days in or whatever it is, probably between 10 and 12, I think, would be about -- would be about right.

Q: Okay, thank you.

SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Yes. Okay, guys, I've got a call there. I got to everybody. Nobody got missed. And we'll see you all later. Bye.