Russia invasion appears ‘frustrated’ by stiff Ukraine resistance

3 min read
Ukrainian service members look for unexploded shells after a fighting with Russian raiding group in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in the morning of February 26, 2022, according to Ukrainian service personnel at the scene. AFP
  • According to Pentagon information, Russia now has at least 50 percent of its massive invasion force inside Ukraine
  • However, the force is making slow progress on its original three-front thrust due to unexpectedly stiff resistance

Russia’s invasion force is being slowed and frustrated by unexpectedly stiff resistance from Ukrainian troops, keeping them outside Kyiv, a senior US defense official said on Saturday, February 27.

The United States and Western allies are still able to deliver arms into the country to bolster the Ukraine military, and Washington plans to send more in the coming days to help them fight both Russian armor on the ground and assaults from the air, the official said.

According to Pentagon information, Russia now has at least 50 percent of its massive invasion force inside Ukraine.

But the force is making slow progress on its original three-front thrust due to unexpectedly stiff resistance, the official told reporters, on grounds of anonymity.

“We have indications that the Russians are increasingly frustrated by their lack of momentum over the last 24 hours, particularly in the north parts of Ukraine,” the official said.

In Moscow on Saturday the defense ministry said the Russian army had been ordered to broaden its offensive after Kyiv declined an offer of talks in Russia-allied Belarus.

This general view shows damage to the upper floors of a building in Kyiv on February 26, 2022, after it was reportedly struck by a Russian rocket. AFP

“Today all units were given orders to develop the advance from all directions in accordance with the operation’s plans,” Russian army spokesman Igor Konashenkov announced.

Ukrainian officials said 198 civilians, including three children, had been killed since Russia invaded, as a defiant President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed his country would never give in to the Kremlin.

US sending more weapons

The Pentagon believes the Russian invasion, utilizing a force of more than 150,000 troops, heavy armor, and missile and air barrages, has not progressed nearly as fast as hoped since it began just before dawn on Thursday.

“Ukrainian air defenses, including aircraft, do continue to be operable and continue to engage and deny access to Russian aircraft in places over the country,” the US official said.

The bulk of the Russian troops remained some 30 kilometers (18 miles) outside of Kyiv, the official said, while stressing that battlefield situations were actively changing.

Ukraine’s army said Saturday it had held back an assault on the capital but was fighting Russian “sabotage groups” which had infiltrated the city.

Ukrainian resistance remains “viable,” and Western allies are still able to get weapons and other supplies to them despite the Russian attack, the US official said.

The Russians “have been frustrated by… a very determined resistance and it has slowed them down.”

“Based on what we’ve observed, that this resistance is greater than what the Russians expected,” the official said.

The Russians have been more successful in the push from Crimea and the Black Sea in the south.

“But in the north, that’s where the stiffest resistance is. There is still heavy fighting in and around Kharkiv,” as well as north of Kyiv, the official said.

On the same day that Western allies announced they were hoping to cripple Russia by taking the key step of banishing a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank system, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also announced that Washington will provide $350 million in additional military equipment to Ukrainian forces.

“This package will include further lethal defensive assistance to help Ukraine address the armored, airborne, and other threats it is now facing,” he said in a statement.

The US defense official said the new arms will include more Javelin portable anti-tank missiles and other items, without being specific. The official declined to answer whether they would include anti-aircraft weapons.

The United States and European allies are still able to deliver lethal weapons aid to the Ukraine military despite the Russian invasion.

“They have received security assistance from us just within the last couple of days,” the official said.