Russian forces are gaining an advantage in eastern Ukraine as they learn from mistakes made during the earlier stages of their invasion of the country, including better coordinating air and ground attacks and improving logistics and supply lines, two US officials with direct knowledge of US intelligence assessments told CNN.
The US does not expect new weapons systems recently supplied to Ukrainian forces, including the HIMARS multiple missile launch system, to immediately change the situation on the battlefield in part because those systems are so far being sent with both a limited range and a limited number of rockets to ensure they are not fired into Russian territory. Additionally, Russian forces have been able to destroy some of the new Western-supplied weapons, including M777 howitzers, in targeted attacks.
The US assessments, which envision a long and punishing battle in eastern Ukraine, come the months-long war there has reached a pivotal moment in recent days. Ukraine’s military has been burning through Soviet-era ammunition that fits older systems, and Western governments are facing a tough decision on whether they want to continue increasing their assistance to the country.
The US assessments paint a dismal image of the future of the war, with high personnel and equipment losses on both sides. US officials believe that Russian forces plan to maintain intense attacks in the east, characterized by heavy artillery and missile strikes, with the intention of wearing down Ukrainian forces and NATO resolve over time.
Russia’s advancements were brought into plain view in recent days after Ukraine’s defense of Lysychansk – the last city in the Luhansk region it still holds – became a lot more tenuous. In the last couple of days, Russians have advanced into several villages south of Lysychansk, though not without sustaining losses from Ukrainian artillery fire.
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