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Defense Department reports airspace above Ukraine remains contested

Defense Department reports airspace above Ukraine remains contested
Archive image: A Ukraine SU-27 integrates with a U.S. B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, during a Bomber Task Force Europe mission, Sept. 4, 2020.
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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Xavier Navarro.
March 7, 2022. By C. Todd Lopez, Department of Defense (DoD) news

Ten days into Russia’s illegal invasion of neighboring Ukraine, the airspace above Ukraine remains contested, as Ukrainian pilots continue to defend their country, a senior Defense Department official said yesterday.  

«In the airspace, we continue to observe that the airspace over Ukraine is contested,» the official said in statement released Sunday evening. «Ukrainian air and missile defenses remain effective and in use. The Ukrainian military continues to fly aircraft and to employ air defense assets.»  

The Ukrainian military has also released videos of Russian military aircraft that have been shot down, though the official said that the U.S. Defense Department is not in a position to either confirm the validity of those videos or refute them.

«Both sides have taken losses to both aircraft and missile defense inventories,» the official said. «We are not going to speak to numbers. We assess that both sides still possess a majority of their air defense systems and capabilities.»  

While the official did say that since the invasion began Feb. 24, the Defense Department believes Russian forces have launched approximately 600 missiles of various types. At the same time, the department is unable to corroborate reports of the use of cluster munitions or thermobaric weapons by the Russians, the official said.  

On the ground, the official said, the U.S. Defense Department has observed limited changes in the past day.

«Russian forces continued efforts to advance and isolate Kyiv, Kharkiv and Chernihiv across the north and east are being met with strong Ukrainian resistance,» the official said, adding that leading Russian elements remain outside these city centers and the Russian convoy continues to be stalled.  

In the far south of Ukraine, the official said, the DoD has observed fighting near Kherson, on the Dnieper River, and near Mykolaiv — a location for major shipbuilding operations — on the Pivdennyi Buh, or «Southern Bug,» river.  

In Mariupol on the Sea of Azov in southern Ukraine and just 30 miles from the Russian border, the official said DOD has observed continued fighting and efforts by the Russians to encircle the city.  

«There continue to be reports of widespread utility outages,» the official said, to include both water and electricity.

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