Russian warships in the Sea of Azov are now shelling the crucial port city of Mariupol, which has become the country’s most urgent humanitarian emergency since the invasion of Ukraine began almost a month ago.
On Tuesday, a senior Defense Department official said Moscow has about seven ships taking part in the bombardment of Mariupol, a city of about 400,000 before the siege began.
“That wasn’t the case yesterday. That’s a bit of a change,” the defense official said, who was speaking anonymously so he could relay the Pentagon’s view of the conflict.
The Kremlin dispatched more than 20 naval vessels to waters around Ukraine to take part in Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor. The list includes an estimated 12 surface combatant ships, such as destroyers and frigates, and nine amphibious landing ships. The Russian warships are operating in the Black Sea as well as the Sea of Azov.
“There’s no indication of an imminent amphibious invasion in the Odessa area,” the senior Defense official said. “But, we’re still seeing that naval activity in the northern Black Sea.”
In addition to their inability to dominate the battlefield after almost a month’s worth of fighting, the Russian troops operating in Ukraine have been plagued with logistics problems. U.S. officials say the Russians are having problems acquiring fuel for their combat vehicles and even feeding their troops.
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“I don’t think that comes as much of a shock to anybody here at the Pentagon,” the Pentagon official said. “They were having logistics and sustainment issues less than a week in.”
Some of the Russian soldiers are even suffering from frostbite because they lack appropriate cold weather gear, the Defense official said.
“We don’t think they properly planned this,” he said.