Ukraine-Russia War Breaking News: Live Updates

WASHINGTON — The Ukrainians launched successful but limited counterattacks east and northeast of kyiv, moves that may have hastened the Russian withdrawal once it became clear to Moscow that its forces would not would not be able to take the Ukrainian capital, according to Western diplomats and independent military personnel. analysts.

The Russian pushback is real, these officials and analysts say, a sign that Moscow’s initial strategy failed in the face of serious planning failures, logistical problems and fierce and effective Ukrainian resistance. But they warn that it will take a few days to be sure what the Russian forces are doing.

The new analyzes come after Pentagon and NATO officials initially raised doubts about the Russian withdrawal, arguing it could just be a repositioning of forces or a chance to refit and resupply forces in Belarus, away from Ukrainian attacks.

Frederick Kagan, a military expert with the American Enterprise Institute, said the Ukrainian counterattack that began last week appears to have convinced Russian commanders to change strategy.

“The counterattacks probably prompted Russia to abandon kyiv,” Kagan said. “The counter-attacks demonstrated that the Russians were in fact not going to be able to hold the positions they held anyway. And so they made the decision to demote in good order rather than be kicked out.

Credit…Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press

Analysts say continued air and missile strikes on Kyiv and Chernihiv may be aimed at covering Russian retreat and maintaining pressure on the Ukrainian government, rather than a new attack on Kyiv or other cities in the region .

Janes, an independent defense intelligence firm, reported that several Russian units had withdrawn from Kyiv, heading towards Belarus. Janes also reported that Ukrainian counterattacks succeeded in reopening a route to Sumy, splitting one of the Russian fronts.

A European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity to candidly discuss intelligence assessments, said it’s hard to say what Russia’s strategy for change will be, but early signs are that its new targets closer include the expansion of the territory it occupies in eastern Ukraine, and the potential consolidation of control over Ukraine’s southeastern coast between Donetsk and Crimea, including the besieged city of Mariupol .

While officials and analysts expect Russia to move forces to eastern Ukraine, not all troops that withdraw from Kyiv are likely to be redeployed there, Kagan said. Many of the forces assembled to attack the capital were inexperienced, poorly organized, and incompetent in combat.

“The forces that are around kyiv are largely ineffective in combat, and we don’t expect to see those forces show up with significant combat power in the east anytime soon,” he said.

Instead, units of the First Guards Tank Army, a more experienced and less badly damaged unit, are more likely to be moved from near Kharkiv and then used in the fight against the Ukrainian army in Donetsk, Ms. .Kagan.

Russian forces now appear to be pursuing a strategy to encircle Ukrainian positions in the east of the country, according to diplomats and analysts. So far, the Ukrainians have managed to keep their supply lines open, and Russia’s withdrawal from kyiv could allow Ukraine to reinforce its units in the east, the European diplomat said.

And Russia’s encirclement strategy could encounter significant problems. To execute it, Russian commanders will have to stretch their supply lines and reduce an already thin force, making it difficult to protect those supply lines from Ukrainian attacks.

“The bigger the force you encircle, the more forces it takes to do it,” Kagan said. “It’s going to be very complicated. Currently, Russian penetration itself is very thin. The Russian lines are also very long, and we have seen this film before. They tried long supply lines from Sumy to kyiv and it ended in tears for the Russians.

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