Russian Donbas Assault Is Slow Going at High Cost, Westerners Say

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Many of Russia’s battalions suffered heavy casualties and equipment losses in the early fighting and were withdrawn to Russian territory. Efforts to reinforce and resupply the battered battalions were hurried, and as a result, many of the units rushed back into the fight are likely not at full strength, the Pentagon official said.

In light of these troubles, one British military expert said the Russian assault on the Donbas had “sort of fizzled,” and that Russia risks running out of new troops to deploy there.

“They pulled all of these mauled units out of Kyiv, and then tried to reconstitute them for combat in the east,” said the analyst, Mike Martin, a visiting fellow in war studies at King’s College London. The Kremlin has thus far resisted implementing a general mobilization that would entail wider conscription of Russian men.

An assessment of the combat in Ukraine by Britain’s Defense Intelligence agency released on Friday also suggested sluggish movement by the Russian forces.

“Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces,” the agency said in a statement.

North of Donbas, Ukrainian forces have been waging a campaign to push Russian troops away from Kharkiv, once Ukraine’s second-largest city. Fighting has been fierce there, and Ukraine’s military hopes to force the Russians out of artillery range of Kharkiv, which is just 20 miles from the Russian border.

The Ukrainians there have been fighting to retake territory that Russians have held since early in the war. In recent days, they wrested back control of Ruska Lozova, a town of 6,000 people some 12 miles north of Kharkiv, enabling scores of its residents fleeing down an open road to Kharkiv. It was not clear whether they were able to hold the town in the face of a Russian counterattack.

The Ukrainian military, in a briefing in Kyiv on Friday evening, also noted logistical setbacks for the Russian army, but suggested that they had been surmounted in some instances. A presidential aide suggested the Russian forces had already suffered “colossal losses” in Donbas, though that assessment could not be immediately confirmed.

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