Russian artillery closing in on Kyiv for siege, US says, with troop morale flagging

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The U.S. Defense Department has observed Russian forces stalling out in their advance as well as anecdotal instances of sagging morale among the troops. 

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby hesitated to comment on the broad morale of the Russian forces, but he acknowledged some “anecdotal indications” that morale is “not high in some units.” 

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“Some of that is, we believe, a function of poor leadership, lack of information that the troops are getting about their mission and objectives, and I think disillusionment from being resisted as fiercely as they have been,” Kirby explained. “But, again, I want to stress that these are anecdotal accounts.” 

“While we’re confident in what we’re picking up, we would not apply that to the entire force that Russia has put into Ukraine,” he added. 

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Reports over the past week have indicated a significant slowdown in Russian advance, which may contribute to the anecdotal low morale: Officials have not seen Russia move its artillery “any closer” to Kyiv, but that all signs indicate that the forces intend to conduct a siege of the city. 

“That’s what you want to use artillery for, and so we haven’t seen that manifest itself,” Kirby told reporters Thursday. “We’re just seeing them move them into place, but they clearly are trying, particularly around Kyiv, to improve their ability to hit the city from afar with munitions.” 

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Additionally, Defense officials have seen no changes in either air superiority or indication of an imminent amphibious invasion. 

“We haven’t seen any major changes by either Air Force in terms of how much they’re flying, but I just don’t have the numbers,” Kirby said, but he did say that officials had seen “several surface ships, about a half a dozen or so surface ships off the coast not far from Odesa.” 

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“They are definitely at sea and not far from Odesa, but it’s unclear right now what they’re planning to do, what they’re preparing to do,” he added. “We got frigates, a couple of vantage sips, one warfare ship … but we’re not seeing imminent activity that would indicate that they’re about to launch an amphibious assault on Odesa.” 

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