By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Feb. 28, 2022) -- Since Russian military forces illegally invaded Ukraine last week, Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, as well as Russian soldiers have been killed in the conflict. Estimates are in the thousands.
"He's perpetrating violence on a neighboring nation state that presented no threat to him, and innocent lives are being ... taken. And we've seen casualties ... we know there's casualties on both sides of this conflict. All of this ... was avoidable," Kirby said during a briefing today at the Pentagon. "This is a war of choice ... and all the casualties are on his hands -- all the blood is on Mr. Putin's hands."
In furtherance of Russia's illegal war, a convoy of Russian military forces, by some estimates as long as 17 miles, continues to move towards the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv.
"I think the main conclusion we can draw ... is that ... they continue to want to move on Kyiv, to capture Kyiv, to take Kyiv," Kirby said. "Although we don't know everything about this convoy, it is certainly in keeping with what we believe to be their intent, with respect to the capital city."
How the Russians plan to capture Kyiv once the convoy reaches its destination, Kirby said, is unknown right now.
"Whether it's encirclement, or bombardment, or street-to-street fighting, I mean, I just don't think we have that level of dexterity now to give you that kind of detail in terms of Russian planning," he said.
The Ukrainian military has so far provided a "stiff and determined resistance" in defense of their country which has appeared to slow Russian plans there, Kirby said.
And the U.S. military, along with other nations have continued to provide security assistance packages to Ukraine to help them defend their country.
On Saturday, Kirby said President Biden had authorized an additional $350 million of military assistance to Ukraine from Defense Department inventories. Included there are anti-armor, small arms and various munitions, body armor and other related equipment.
"We know that the Ukrainian armed forces are using a lot of the systems and equipment that had been provided to them not just by the United States, but by other nations," Kirby said. "The Ukrainians have been effective at using these weapons and these systems, and ... at resisting and pushing back Russian forces."
Kirby said while it's not possible to know exactly what the Russian war plan is for Ukraine, it's believed that their plans may have been delayed so far by a few days as a result of unexpected resistance by the Ukrainian military. Nevertheless, he said, he recommends caution right now in assessing the situation in Ukraine, especially when it relates to drawing conclusions about Russian military plans, efforts or capabilities, just days into an illegal war.
"This is a dynamic situation. It's war, and war can be unpredictable," he said. "And I don't think that anybody, including, perhaps especially Ukrainians, are sniffing at Russian capabilities that they're facing."