Russian convoy heads for eastern Ukraine, defense official says weather will force troops to stick to roads
A senior defense official said Tuesday a convoy of Russian vehicles headed south in the direction of eastern Ukraine appears to be slow-moving and will likely be forced to stick to the roads due to the spring weather.
The official told reporters it was unclear how fast the convoy was moving but said it is not heading for the eastern front with any “breakneck speed.”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday that the Russian convoy appears to be an attempt to “reinforce their efforts in the Donbas” – but he was unable to confirm what Russian forces are bringing with them apart from a “mix of personnel” and armored vehicles.
The convoy is roughly 37 miles north of the city of Izyum, which is roughly 16 miles from the Donbas regional border.
“I don’t know its final destination,” a senior defense official told reporters Tuesday, noting the convoy is moving south. “But I would rely on that with the spring whether they have to stay on the paved roads. They’re staying on highways and avenues. They’re not going off-roading here.”
Officials have long warned warmer weather will make it more difficult for Russia to carry out ground invasions as heavily-armored vehicles will be slower moving in muddy conditions.
The senior U.S. defense official said it does not appear that Ukrainian troops have started attacking the convoy as of yet, though Russia’s previous attempts to push a convoy south into Kyiv proved unsuccessful earlier this year.
Russia is assessed to have maintained just over 80 percent of its combat force since Moscow’s invasion 47 days ago.
But officials have also warned that Russia could be looking to recruit as many as 60,000 more troops to aid in its deadly campaign.
The U.S. and NATO said last week that Russia will seek to hit eastern Ukraine with a “major offensive” after it failed to take the capital city of Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskyy warned Tuesday that his forces are still short of what they need to end the Russian incursion, and again urged allied nations to send Kyiv jets and more armored vehicles.
The U.S. pledged to send Ukraine Switchblade drones armed with tank-busting warheads but Washington has continued to refuse to send actual warplanes.
A senior defense official told reporters that a “significant” amount of the first 100 Switchblade drones have been delivered to Ukraine and more are expected imminently.
The official said the U.S. is in constant communication with Ukraine to get it what it needs in a timely manner.