Russian offensive 'limited' so far, fall of Mariupol 'not inevitable': Pentagon update Day 55

The Pentagon has provided daily updates on the US assessment of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Ukraine's resistance efforts.
Here are the highlights of what a senior US defense official told reporters Tuesday, Day 55.
MORE: Russia begins long-feared offensive in eastern Ukraine
So far “limited” Russian offensive operations in eastern Ukraine
The US has seen "limited" Russian offensive operations southwest of Donetsk and south of Izium, but these are believed to be "preludes to larger offensive operations that the Russians intend to undertake," a senior US defense official said.
"These are actual ground offensives and they are of course supported by some long-range fire, mostly artillery, which is straight out of Russian doctrine," the official said.
But while fighting continues in the region, an even more devastating offensive is in the works.
“You saw comments yesterday from President Zelenskyy [of Ukraine] and even from Lavrov [Russia's Foreign Minister] about this new offensive beginning... We think these are... preludes to major offensive operations that the Russians are planning to conduct. So we're not pushing the notion that offensive operations have begun, but we think this is a prelude to larger offensive operations that may still be in the pipeline here," the official said.
PHOTO: A Russian military convoy moves on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists near Mariupol, Ukraine April 16, 2022. (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)
The Pentagon believes Russia's military is working to learn from its mistakes in fighting in the north, where it has been plagued by logistics and supply problems, and is conducting so-called "shaping operations" to create favorable battlefield conditions before it his new offensive begins in earnest.
"In other words, keep strengthening, keep making sure they have logistics and sustainability, keep making sure they have adequate aviation and other support capabilities," the official said.
According to the official, two Russian battalion tactical groups (BTGs) or up to 2,000 other combat troops have been deployed to Ukraine in the past 24 hours. This brings the total to an estimated 78 BTGs within the country, all in the South and East.
About 75 percent of Putin's original combat capability against Ukraine remains, the official said. All military capabilities are taken into account, including troop losses, destroyed vehicles and aircraft, and spent missiles. That's the lowest estimate we've heard from the Pentagon.
PHOTO: Servicemen of the Donetsk People's Republic militia look at bodies of Ukrainian soldiers housed in plastic bags in a tunnel in a Russian-backed separatist-controlled area in Mariupol, Ukraine, April 18, 2022. (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)
Fall of Mariupol and Donbas 'not inevitable'
“People talk about it as if it is inevitable that Mariupol will fall, that it is inevitable that Donbass will be taken by the Russians. We don't see it that way. And we are doing everything we can to ensure that it is not inevitable," the official said.
With fighting centered around Donbass, Ukraine needs to distribute aid from the US and other countries across the country.
"At the moment we know from our conversations with the Ukrainians that they get this material, it gets into the hands of their fighters," the official said.
The story goes on

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