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Russia has only gained 'maybe 6 to 10 miles' of territory since war pivoted to eastern Ukraine, top US general says

Jake Epstein   

Russia has only gained 'maybe 6 to 10 miles' of territory since war pivoted to eastern Ukraine, top US general says
  • The top US general said Russia has only gained a few miles of territory in eastern Ukraine.
  • "Advances are measured in literally hundreds of meters," Gen. Mark Milley said on Wednesday.

Russian forces have only gained a few miles of territory since the war pivoted to eastern Ukraine, the top US general said — highlighting how much the five-month-long campaign has turned into a slow and bloody grind.

Speaking during a press conference at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Ukraine has "fought the Russians very effectively" and over the last few months, "Russian advances have amounted to maybe six to 10 miles — something of that range."

For comparison, 10 miles is approximately the distance from Wall Street to Yankee Stadium.

"It's not very much," Milley continued, adding that the campaign is "very intense" with "a lot of violence."

He said both sides are exchanging tens of thousands of artillery rounds every day, as casualties mount and local infrastructure continues to be destroyed.

But, he stressed, "in terms of actual ground gained — very, very little by the Russians, relative to all of Ukraine."

After Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, they tried to capture the capital city Kyiv in what President Vladimir Putin hoped and Western intelligence expected would be just a few days.

After weeks of failure, however, Putin's troops retreated from having occupied the Kyiv suburbs and refocused the campaign to the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.

Still, NATO and the West warned that Russia still wanted to conquer all of Ukraine. The Kremlin announced earlier on Wednesday that its geographical goals in Ukraine are shifting as it plans to annex more territory beyond the Donbas region.

But Milley's comments on Wednesday underscore how brutal and slow-moving the five-month-long war has become — with shifting frontlines and a mounting death toll.

"The cost is very high. The gains are very low. There is a grinding war of attrition," Milley said. "The Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every inch of territory that they gain. Advances are measured in literally hundreds of meters — some days you might get a kilometer or two from the Russians, but not much more than that."

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the US Army in Europe, told Insider that Russia lacks the resources and capabilities to make "meaningful progress" in Ukraine.

And with continued support from the West with weapons deliveries, he said, Ukraine could even wipe out Russia's territorial gains by 2023.

'They're going to be cannibalizing equipment'

Fiona Hill, who served as the top Russia expert on the National Security Council under the Trump administration, last week told Insider that Moscow has "a lot of problems, and over the longer term."

Hill emphasized that Russia will continue to face issues with the maintenance of military equipment on top of manpower problems after losing so many troops. It's difficult to verify death tolls amid an ongoing war, but estimates suggest tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed.

"The problem becomes one of maintaining the military equipment and everything over the longer term. They're going to be cannibalizing equipment," Hill said, adding, "We're seeing them reverting back, not just to the tactics of earlier times, but the equipment of earlier times. Pulling lots of things out of the scrapyard or cold storage. There's a lot of speculation about how long it will take for them to replenish the equipment that's lost."

Last week, the UK Ministry of Defense said that Russia might resort to recruiting from prisons to make up for lost military personnel. Along these lines, Hill said that there are also "signs of desperation" in Russia "in terms of just trying to bring more people in without having a full-on mobilization that would bring in the kids of elites in Moscow and St. Petersburg."

Hill said that Putin "wants us to basically capitulate at this point," adding that the Russian leader also "doesn't want this dragging on."

"So all of these statements that Putin is saying like 'we haven't even started yet, the worst is yet to come,' it's meant to have Ukraine and everybody else just sort of give up now," Hill said, adding, "He's trying to tell us that time is on his side when actually it isn't really so much."