Volodymyr Zelenskyy retains “command and control” of Ukraine’s military more than one week into Russia’s invasion of his country, according to senior US defence officials.
The US also believes that the majority of Ukraine’s air and missile defence systems are still viable despite some 480 missile strikes, a senior US defence official told journalists on Thursday.
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The Pentagon assessment comes a day after Russian forces captured the southern city of Kherson and expanded its brutal bombing of civilian areas across the country. The southern city of Mariupol has been under continuous shelling for 26 hours, the city’s deputy mayor said, while its residents are running out of water and electricity.
Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said Wednesday that more than 2,000 civilians have been killed since Russia invaded on 24 February. That number is impossible to verify due to the scale of violence across the country.
On the same call with journalists, the defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russia had shown a “clear willingness” to hit civilian targets as it pushes on with its devastating offensive.
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The official said the US believes that the Russian military intends to encircle Kyiv, and has laid the ground for that siege with a heavy bombardment over the last 24 hours.
They added that Russia had deployed 90 per cent of the 150,000-strong force president Vladimir Putin had massed on the border with Ukraine inside the country.
In a new video address to the nation on Thursday, president Zelenskyy said Ukraine was a “nation that broke the enemy’s plans in a week – plans that have been built for years, treacherously, deliberately, with hatred of our country, of our people, of any people who have heart and freedom.”
“Our military, border guards, territorial defense, even ordinary farmers capture the Russian military on a daily basis. And they all say one thing: They don’t know why they’re here,” he added.
Photo Credit: Getty