Russian missiles rained down on the Ukrainian city of Odessa for a second day Tuesday, in an apparent effort to destroy supply lines and target Western weapons shipments.
The strikes on the historic port in the southwest of Ukraine came as US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Kremlin had not given up on its hopes to take large swaths of Ukraine.
“We assess President [Vladimir] Putin is preparing for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas,” Haines told lawmakers Tuesday.
Putin’s hopes to install a Kremlin-friendly government in Kyiv were stymied when his forces failed to take the capital early in the war.
A combination of Ukrainian resistance and Russian logistical failures led to a retreat from central Ukraine in late March and a declaration from the Kremlin that it was only focused on the eastern Donbas region. Fighting there has occurred sporadically since Russia egged on a separatist movement in the region in 2014.
But Western assessments — and continued bombardments across Ukraine — indicate that Russia wants more than eastern Ukraine.
Regardless, reports Tuesday indicated that Russian forces have been as unsuccessful in the east as they have been elsewhere.
In the decimated port city of Mariupol, Russian troops were still unable to dislodge the Ukrainian forces holed up in a sprawling Soviet-era steel plant, despite continued shelling and ground assaults.
Ukrainian forces Tuesday retook four villages outside the northeastern city of Kharkiv, in an effort to push Russian artillery out of range.
Those counterattacks also endanger Russian supply lines, according to military experts.
“They’re trying to cut in and behind the Russians to cut off the supply lines, because that’s really one of their (the Russians’) main weaknesses,” Neil Melvin of the RUSI think tank in London told Reuters Tuesday.
“Ukrainians are getting close to the Russian border. So all the gains that the Russians made in the early days in the northeast of Ukraine are increasingly slipping away,” he said.