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Russia Ukraine conflict

Russia increased footprint in east Ukraine over last week: Senior US official

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A senior US defense official said Monday that Russia had increased its military presence inside Ukraine, specifically in the east, over the last few days.

The official said that Russia had added 11 battalion tactical groups inside Ukraine over the last week, bringing the total number to around 76.

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“I don’t know where all of them are… but all the Russian forces are in the east or in the South. That is where they physically have ground forces,” the official said. “They [Russia] have added to their capability inside Ukraine.”

The official said that Mariupol was still being contested and remained “under threat from the air.”

As for new weapons shipments, the Pentagon official said US personnel would begin to train Ukrainians on using the Howitzer artillery system in the coming days. The official added that the training would be done outside of Ukraine.

Last week, a senior defense official said the Pentagon was looking at ways to train Ukrainians remotely on new weapons systems.

Separately, the US official said at least four military aid flights arrived in the region on Sunday. They said another flight of aid would be landing soon as part of the latest $800-million-assistance package announced by the US last week.

Part of the most recent weapons shipments includes the howitzers and thousands of artillery rounds. Helicopters and Humvees are also part of the package.

Later Monday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said all US weapons shipments were getting into the hands of Ukrainians. He played down Russian claims that Moscow had destroyed weapons delivered to Ukraine by the US and Europe.

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