Ill-equipped Russian troops getting frostbitten in Ukraine, US official says

Russian ships in the Sea of Azov have been shelling Mariupol from offshore over the last 24 hours, a senior US defense official says.

The official says that there are about seven Russian ships in that area, including several warships, a minesweeper, and a couple of landing ships.

By contrast, the official says the US did not see indications that ships in the Black Sea were firing on Odesa, as they had done days ago. The official says the US assesses that the Russians have about 21 ships in the Black Sea, including about a dozen surface combatant warships and some landing ships that carry troops.

According to the official, Russian ground forces are still largely stalled outside Kyiv – with troops still about 30 kilometers (19 miles) northeast of the city, and 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of the city. The official speaks on condition of anonymity to provide the US military assessment.

Military emergency service members remove the body of a dead Ukrainian serviceman in the area of a research institute, part of Ukraine’s National Academy of Science, after a strike, in northwestern Kyiv, on March 22, 2022. (Aris Messinis / AFP)

More broadly, the defense official says the US continues to see Russia struggling to get food and fuel to its force, and has been seeing indications that some troops do not have proper cold weather gear and are suffering frostbite. The food and fuel shortages have been persistent logistical and supply problems since the early days of the war.

The official says there also are indications that Russia is exploring ways to resupply troops and is considering bringing in reinforcements, but so far there have been no active moves seen to do either. There also are indications that Russian has used a significant number of its precision guided munitions, particularly its air-launched cruise missiles, and is exploring ways to resupply those weapons, the official says.

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