Ukrainian forces — including civilians — are continuing to frustrate Russian invasion forces on the ground and in the air, a senior Defense Department official said today.
It's a very dynamic battlefront across eastern Ukraine, the official said. "It's very clear that the Ukrainians are showing no signs of stopping their resistance and no signs of slowing down their attacks on the Russians."
Thus far, the Russians have only taken a handful of population centers, Kherson being the large one. Even with Kherson in Russian hands, Ukrainian forces counterattacked in an effort to take it back, the official said.
"Credit goes to the Ukrainians and the impressive way that they are defending their cities and their fellow citizens," the official said.
"They're using the security assistance that gets to them. There's not a long shelf life for this stuff. I mean, it gets into their hands, and they use it. They are being very energetic and very aggressive in the defense, and I think the lion's share of the credit must go to them and to their leadership," the official said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been quite inspirational and has really motivated his forces, the official said. "Average citizens are picking up arms and fighting."
The Russians are taking casualties every day. They are losing aircraft, armor, vehicles, artillery, helicopters and jets, the official said.
"We continue to see a risk aversion by a lot of Russian pilots inside Ukrainian airspace," the official added.
The Ukrainians have been very creative in their air defense, the official said.
"They're being very nimble, very agile in how and when and where they apply air defense. … They're being very resourceful in how they're trying to prevent the Russians from dominating the skies over Ukraine. We would still assess the air of Ukraine airspace is contested," the official said.
The Russians have launched more than 1,100 missiles against targets in Ukraine since the start of the invasion, the official said.
Russian forces continue hitting cities with long-range missiles and artillery bombardments, as well as trying to encircle them, the official said.
Some Russians forces are reportedly experiencing morale issues.
"[Russian soldiers] just weren't fully prepared for operations of this intensity [and] for this long on so many different multiple lines of attack," the official said. "They did not expect this level of resistance."
"Some of [the Russian soldiers] were not told what they were actually going to be doing inside Ukraine. We know they relied on conscripts, and they still do; and it's still largely a conscript army. These are very young men who don't have a long experience with soldiering," the official said.
A weakness of the Russian military is the lack of initiative that noncommissioned officers are allowed to take on the battlefield, the official noted. The opposite is the case for NCOs in the U.S. military and in the militaries of a number of allied nations.
Russians continue struggling with command and control, logistics and sustainment issues, the official said.
DOD officials think the Russians are facing inventory issues with precision-guided munitions. That is one reason there's an increased use of "dumb bombs," meaning they are not precision-guided, the official said.
"We've also seen them suffer failures of some of their precision-guided munitions where they're just not operating. Either they're failing to launch, or they're failing to hit the target, or they're failing to explode on contact," the official said.
There has been some recent Russian naval activity in the northern Black Sea, with more than a dozen warships of various types, the official said. "We think that at least some of the shelling that's happening around Odesa is a result of those ships."
It is not clear that this is an imminent pre-staging sign of an amphibious assault on Odesa, the official added.
Russian officials claim to have launched hypersonic Kinzhal missiles against a military ammunitions warehouse in western Ukraine's Ivano-Frankivsk region on March 18, destroying a structure purported to house munitions.
DOD officials are not able to confirm or refute those claims. From a military perspective, it makes no sense to fire a hypersonic missile if precision-guided munitions are available, the official said.