Russian forces could approach Odessa from land rather than sea, a defense official told reporters on Friday.
The forces passed through Crimea and the Ukrainian port city of Kherson and are now heading for the port city of Mykolaiv, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said during a Friday afternoon briefing.
Mykolaiv is not far from Odessa, Kirby said, suggesting the Russians could attack Odessa through Mykolaiv.
“We’re not sure what to make of that,” Kirby said. “We cannot say with certainty that the Russians will use a land route to attack Odessa or even if they will move on Odessa. We just monitor it day to day like you do.
Kherson is the first city to fall under Russian control since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. It is a population center and sits on the Dnieper River, which flows into the Black Sea.
“It’s a key port city in that regard, just in general, and certainly allows the Russians, the Russian military to have some control over at least that part of the river and the entrance to the Black Sea,” said a senior defense official. reporters on Friday morning.
But taking Kherson may have allowed the Russians to launch an assault on Mykolaiv, the senior defense official said, giving them better access to Odessa, should the Russians choose to attack it.
It is possible that a potential assault on Odessa will play out like the Russian attack on Mariupol, with ground forces reinforcing those from an amphibious landing assault, the senior defense official said.
Earlier in the week, a photo of the Belarusian president showing a map of attack plans suggested an amphibious assault on Odessa, but that has yet to materialize. At present, there are no signs of an amphibious assault about to be launched on Odessa, the defense official said.
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“I can’t say for sure that they’re planning to do another amphibious assault, whether it’s to Odessa or any other port in southern Ukraine, but we’re monitoring it as best we can,” he said. he declares.
Although Russia has ships in the Black Sea, as part of its Black Sea Fleet, its navy largely played a supporting role in the conflict, apart from an amphibious landing along the coast near Mariupol. in the early days of the invasion.
Russian ships from the Northern and Pacific Fleets are unlikely to play any role in the Black Sea, as Turkey has closed the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to warships.
Russia launched an amphibious assault outside Mariupol a week ago, with Russian troops continuing to advance towards the port city.
“We have observed that Russian forces continue to advance on Mariupol. But we don’t assess that they’re in there,” a senior defense official said.
The Russians are bombarding the town, with reports of water and utility outages, he said.
“And as we said before, we continue to believe that the Russians want to move to Mariupol from the north of the Donetsk region, as well as up this coast of the Sea of Azov,” the senior official said. defense.
Russian forces are using the coastline to leave Crimea, the official said during a briefing on Wednesday.
“What part of the Sea of Azov coastline do they control? I don’t know,” he said.
Little has been said about Ukraine’s navy, apart from a photo of its scuttled flagship that spread on social media on Thursday. According to the London-based company The temperaturethe commander of the Krivak III class frigate Hetman Sahaidashny (U-130) was ordered to scuttle the ship to avoid losing it to Russian forces if they conducted an assault on Odessa.
The ship is now submerged in the port of Mykolaiv, The temperature reported.