It was just after 3 a.m. in the besieged city of Kyiv, and after five days of attacks from Russia, Ukraine’s military leaders were breathing a sigh of relief.
At least for a moment.
“This night is more [a] relax[ed] one,” said a Ukrainian military official from Kyiv. He spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide his military’s assessment of what is taking place on the battlefield.
“I feel [the] security situation improvement at least in short term,” he said.
Though vastly outnumbered by Russian forces, “we have been able to stop their blitzkrieg,” the official said. “They don’t control any major cities in Ukraine, including [in the] south.”
The Russians, he said, have seen 4,500 troops killed or wounded, and the destruction of 27 fixed wing aircraft, 26 rotary wing aircraft, 150 tanks, 700 armored personnel carriers, four multiple launch rocket systems, 50 artillery pieces and 60 fuel cisterns.
Military Times is unable to verify those claims. But, Oleksiy Arestovych, a Ukrainian official, offered similar figures on Ukrainian television.
While the Russians have made gains, the official said the “overall security situation is still tough, with positive tendencies.”
Speaking to reporters earlier Sunday, a senior U.S. defense official said that that while Vladimir Putin has committed two-thirds of his combat power arrayed against Ukraine, “we do continue to see Russian momentum slowed. They continue to face a stiff resistance.”
In particular, the Russians are experiencing fuel and logistics shortages, said the official, who was speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity. “This is most particularly acute in their advanced on Kharkiv.”
Echoing the Ukrainian military official’s assessment, the U.S. defense official said the Russians “are facing some logistics challenges as well on their advanced down to Kyiv. We still as of this morning have no indication that the Russian military has taken control of any cities. But clearly, that continues to be in our view, their goal.”
The Russians have made more gains in the south of Ukraine, along the Sea of Azov, said the senior U.S. defense official. Their goal is to try to cut off the Sea of Azov completely from Ukraine by establishing a land bridge to occupied Crimea and ultimately taking Odesa, to the west. Such a move would block off virtually all of Ukraine’s access to the water and create a devastating economic blow.
However, the Russians are not facing the same kinds of logistic shortfalls as are taking place in the north, said the senior defense official. And Russian naval infantry from a previous amphibious assault have now linked up with ground forces in a move toward the city of Mariupol.
But the Ukrainians are continuing to fight there as well, the senior defense official said.
“Our assessment is that Mariupol is contested,” said the senior defense official. Ukrainian forces “will put up a resistance there.”
In addition, Ukraine fighter jets and anti-aircraft systems are still keeping the skies contested, with Russian forces firing more than 320 missiles at Ukraine.
“Today it is fifth day of wider Russian invasion and what they have positively achieved? Almost nothing,” said the Ukraine military official. “They have gotten more severe economic and personalized sanctions, excluded from EU Council, disconnected from the SWIFT [banking communications] system, a huge drop of property value on international markets, and a national currency drop. All these tendencies would only deteriorate.”
On a comparatively calmer night in his nation’s capital, the official had one more message.
“Good luck fucking Russians,” he said. “We will help them to go to the hell.”
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.