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The Pentagon on Friday warned that Russian troops are starting to make greater advances toward the capital city of Kyiv as Ukrainian forces continue to fight back against a barrage of missile fire.
“There’s Russian bombardment and shelling going on quite violently as we speak,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters. “And we do assess that the Russians are beginning to make more momentum on the ground towards Kyiv, particularly from the East.”
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The news comes as defense officials have been sounding the alarm for weeks that Russian President Vladimir Putin may attempt to encircle the city to overthrow the democratically elected government and install a “puppet regime” of its own.
Convoys headed for the city have been unable to make major advances since the fighting began over two weeks ago, but the tide could be changing for Russian forces.
A Russian convoy north of Kyiv has yet to advance and recent satellite imagery has suggested it has moved off into the tree line.
But Kirby prefaced this by saying he did not want to draw too much from the dispersing Russian troops in the north and said, “That could just be forced protection because the Ukrainians have continued to threaten that convoy and its progress.”
Forces northwest of the city remain a threat to Kyiv, but according to a senior defense official Friday, they are still roughly 10 miles outside the city.
Putin has deployed roughly all the 150,000 troops he amassed on Ukraine’s border in the lead-up to the invasion and despite the loss of at least 700 Russian military vehicles Moscow has maintained about 90% of its combat force.
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Ukraine has also maintained roughly 90% of its fighting forces despite the nearly 810 missiles fired upon it over the last 16 days.
Half of the missiles levied at Ukrainian forces have come from Russian troops within Ukraine. Just under half of the missiles have been fired from Russia and roughly 80 have been launched from Belarus, a senior defense official confirmed.
Russia has largely focused its invasion in the North, South and Eastern regions of Ukraine. But two cities in Western Ukraine fell victim to Russia’s missile launches Friday.
“Our assessment is that they struck a couple of airfields in the West,” Kirby told reporters. “It’s not like there has not been any airstrikes in Western Ukraine since the beginning of this operation 16 days ago. It’s just that we have not seen that as a routine,” he added, noting the significance of two strikes in one day .
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Kirby said the majority of violent fighting remains in Eastern Ukraine and told reporters “it’s too soon to be able to divine some sort of larger purpose” for Russia’s strikes in the West.
The press secretary said the US will continue to provide security assistance to Ukraine “for as long as we can, as fast as we can.”