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Pentagon believes Russia intends to install own government in Ukraine, senior official says

Black smoke rises from a military airport in Chuguyev near Kharkiv. (Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

A senior defense official told reporters that the Pentagon view is that Russia intends to “decapitate” the government of Ukraine and install its own.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that all signs are that the moves so far are an “initial phase” and most Russian troops near the borders have not yet entered Ukraine. Wednesday night’s explosions and airstrikes are part of three primary lines of assault directed toward Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv, the official said.

The bulk of fighting is in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, located in the south and Russian troops also have entered from Belarus in the north, the official said, but there is no sign of amphibious assault from the Black Sea in the south.

Russia’s three lines of attack include a southern advance, from the Crimea peninsula, stretching to the north to the city of Kherson. Another assault extends from north-central Ukraine to the south, “basically from Belarus to Kyiv.” The third is from northeast Ukraine to the south, which is approximately from Belarus to Kharkiv.

The heaviest fighting is in and around Kharkiv right now, the official stated.

“These three axes are what we believe are clearly designed to take key population centers.”

Attacks began at 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, with more than 100 Russian-launched missiles raining down on key cities in central and eastern Ukraine, the official stated. Russia began ground invasions at 5 a.m. ET in Belarus.

Public means of communication and media in Ukraine remain intact as of now, he stated, warning that the “full scope” of Russia’s cyberattack capabilities has yet to be seen and may still be used. Russia thus far has targeted Ukraine’s military and air defense, including barracks, ammunition warehouses and nearly 10 airfields.

There is no estimate yet on the number of casualties or the amount of total damage, the official said.


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