Russia is resupplying and reinforcing its invasion force in eastern Ukraine with a long convoy of vehicles heading to the region, indicating a new phase of the war is likely to occur there, according to a senior Pentagon officials.
The convoy, exposed in commercial satellite imagery, stretches an estimated eight miles. It appears to contain vehicles to command and supply infantry units and possibly helicopters, said the official who provided intelligence assessments on condition of anonymity.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned of an impending Russian offensive in his country’s east and has urged civilians to flee the region.
“The occupiers have sent dozens of thousands of soldiers and colossal numbers of equipment to prepare new attacks,” he warned in a speech to South Korean lawmakers translated by NBC News. Josep Borrell, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, issued a similar warning Monday.
The Pentagon official said some of the Russian forces involved in the failed attempt to seize the capital of Kyiv appear headed toward the eastern region. There are about 60 Russian battalion tactical groups in eastern and southern Ukraine – between 48,000 and 60,000 troops – the official said.
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VISUAL EXPLAINER: Mapping and tracking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
► Moscow has appointed a new war chief after a largely unsuccessful six weeks of battle in Ukraine. Gen. Alexander Dvornikov had been in command in southern Ukraine, where the Russians had initial success in the invasion. Russian forces, however, continue to have problems with morale, leadership and supply, according to British and U.S. assessments.
► Russia has lost 19,500 troops, 725 tanks,1923 armored vehicles, 347 artillery systems, 154 aircraft; 137 helicopters and an overwhelming amount of other equipment since the war began, the Ukraine military estimated Monday. Russia has not provided numbers but says its troop losses have been “significant.”
► The U.N. Security Council was meeting today to discuss the impact of the war on Ukraine’s women and children. Russia’s veto authority has consistently crippled council efforts to take action against Moscow.
► President Joe Biden is set to speak with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday as he presses world leaders to take a hard line against Russia’s invasion.
►A senior U.S. official, who is not authorized to be identified and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, 60, has a history of brutality against Syrians and other civilians.
Russian claim it destroyed missile launchers US helped provide is refuted
The Russian military says it used sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles to destroy four S-300 air defense missile launchers near the city of Dnipro, just days after Slovakia sent Ukraine an S-300 air defense system in a deal worked out by the U.S.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement Monday that Ukraine had received the technology from an unnamed European country and that about two dozen Ukrainian troops were also hit by the strike.
“Our S-300 system has not been destroyed,” said Lubica Janikova, spokeswoman for Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger. It was unclear whether both sides are referring to the same airstrike as the Russians have targeted missile defense systems in three locations in recent days.
Slovakia was able to provide a system to Ukraine because the U.S. was willing to give Slovakia a Patriot battery to replace it, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday.
Russia could use phosphorus bombs in Mariupol, Brits warn
Russian forces have used phosphorous “munitions” in the Donetsk region in the past, raising the possibility they could be used in Mariupol as fighting for the city intensifies, the British Defense Ministry warned Monday. Phosphorus can ignite on contact with oxygen and severely burn human flesh, but it is not classified as a chemical weapon under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Russian shelling has continued in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Ukrainian forces have repulsed several assaults and destroyed Russian tanks, vehicles and artillery equipment, the ministry said in its latest assessment.
“Russia’s continued reliance on unguided bombs decreases their ability to discriminate when targeting and conducting strikes while greatly increasing the risk of further civilian casualties,” the assessment warned.
Russian dissenters who fled at start of war unsure on return
A growing numbers of artists have fled Russia to neighboring Finland in recent weeks. Many faced the threat of persecution in Russia for not supporting official stances, and their criticism of the war put them in danger of imprisonment. That compelled them to give up their work and make a new home several hours from the Russian border.
Now, amid a harsh crackdown on opposing views, many are unsure if or when it will ever be possible to return. Many artists said they were also worried about the integrity of their work in Russia, which has increasingly suppressed free speech and expression.
“Theater is meant to talk to people and communicate with them, to explain things about the world,” Alena Starostina told USA TODAY. “But it looks like we failed. We couldn’t stop this war and so, I think we are also responsible for it.”
– Tami Abdollah
Major Russian assault on east Ukraine likely within days, EU official says
Russian is sending a large contingent of troops toward eastern Ukraine and appears poised to launch a major offensive in the Donbas region within days, said Josep Borrell, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. The region includes Donetsk and Luhansk, where Moscow-backed separatists established de facto republics that even Russia only recognized days before the war broke out in February.
“I’m afraid the Russian troops are massing on the east to launch an attack on the Donbas,” Borrell said Monday. “I am afraid … the war will increase on the Donbas.”
Russian forces bisected strategically crucial Mariupol from the city center to the coast on Sunday, isolating the remaining Ukrainian defenders in two locations, according to the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War.
Zelenskyy: This week crucial for Ukraine’s fate
In a nightly address Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned his nation that the coming week would be as crucial as any in the war and accused Russia of trying to evade responsibility for war crimes.
“When people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adapt to reality and learn, they turn into monsters,” Zelenskyy said. “And when the world ignores it, the monsters decide that it is the world that has to adapt to them. Ukraine will stop all this.”
Zelenskyy called on Western countries, including Germany, to provide more assistance to Ukraine. During talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Zelenskyy said he discussed how to strengthen sanctions against Russia and how to force Moscow to seek peace.
“I am glad to note that the German position has recently changed in favor of Ukraine. I consider it absolutely logical,” Zelenskyy said.
More Ukraine coverage from USA TODAY
Putin to meet with Austrian chancellor
Austria’s foreign minister says Chancellor Karl Nehammer is taking “very clear messages of a humanitarian and political kind” to a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said Monday that Nehammer decided to make the trip after meeting in Kyiv on Saturday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and following contacts with the leaders of Turkey, Germany and the European Union.
Schallenberg said ahead of a meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg that “we don’t want to leave any opportunity unused and must seize every chance to end the humanitarian hell in Ukraine.”
He added that “every voice that makes clear to President (Vladimir) Putin what reality looks like outside the walls of Kremlin is not a wasted voice.”
Schallenberg said that Nehammer and Putin will meet one-on-one without media opportunities. He insisted that Austria has done everything to ensure that the visit isn’t abused, “and I think he (Putin) himself should have an interest in someone telling him the truth and really finding out what’s going on outside.”
– Associated Press
European Union to consider Ukraine membership in weeks
Ukraine could become part of the European Union in a matter of weeks, the president of the European Commission said Sunday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed Ukraine’s application to join the EU in February, and Olga Stefanishyna, deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine, said she expects Ukraine to fully join the EU by June.
The process can take years, but European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Ukraine’s membership could take only weeks to consider.
“Yesterday, somebody told me: “You know, when our soldiers are dying, I want them to know that their children will be free be and be part of the European Union,” von der Leyen said. “They are in an extraordinary situation, where we have to take unusual steps.”
– Celina Tebor
Russia warns of ‘direct military confrontation’ with US
Ukrainian forces are pushing back Russian troops so successfully that the invaders have been forced to regroup, refit and refocus, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday.
“Russia has changed its behavior in this war,” Sullivan said on CBS News’ Face The Nation. “They have retreated. They have pulled back from substantial territory in northern and northeastern Ukraine. Chiefly the reason they made those adjustments is because they were beaten by the Ukrainians.”
Sullivan credited the Ukraine military – and the flow of equipment the U.S. and its allies have been sending the besieged country. Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov earlier told Newsweek the West is provoking Russia.
“We warn that such actions are dangerous,” the envoy said. “They can lead the U.S. and the Russian Federation onto the path of direct military confrontation.”
Contributing: The Associated Press