The Russian offensive was unexpectedly slowed down by the fierce Ukrainian resistance

two days in, Russian attack It appears to have been thwarted by the tougher-than-expected resistance of the highly motivated Ukrainian armed forces.

Despite the overwhelming advantage in manpower and equipment, the Russian advance lost some of its momentum Friday, and the quick victory that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been counting on was no longer assured, a senior US defense official told NBC News.

“We estimate that there is more resistance from the Ukrainians than the Russians expected,” the official said. “They are fighting for their country.”

While Russian forces threaten the capital, Kiev, other major cities like Kharkiv and small but strategic cities like Rivne, none have been captured so far and Ukraine’s air defenses remain largely intact, despite being targeted by relentless missile attacks, the official said. .

Western Ukraine, which borders NATO member Poland and where the United States and other countries maintain a diplomatic presence in the city of Lviv, “remains largely undisturbed,” the official said.

Ukrainian forces are holding soldiers of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, who were captured during an attack on the town of Shasty, near the eastern city of Lugansk, on Thursday.Anatoly Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images

While there was a Russian amphibious assault involving thousands of soldiers west of the city of Mariupol in the Sea of ​​Azov, the official said the assumption was that those forces were heading to the Donbass region, a pro-Russian region where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for months.

“Contrary to the great Russian claims, and indeed President Putin’s vision that Ukrainians will somehow be liberated and will flock to his cause, he got this completely wrong, and the Russian military failed to achieve its primary goal on day one,” he said. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said,.

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Wallace’s assessment came as the suburbs of Kiev were being bombarded by Russian missiles and machine guns were being handed over to civilians preparing to defend their city from invaders.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has given up his suits and is now in combat gear, refused to leave Kiev and called on Western governments to take tougher action against Moscow.

“I think they’re going to fight back,” James Stavridis, a retired naval admiral and former NATO commander, said of the Ukrainians on NBC’s “TODAY.” “The government in Kiev distributed 18,000 rifles to the population. They forbade all men from 18 to 60 years old from leaving the country. It is clear that Zelensky is out of his suit. He wears his hunting equipment. It will be difficult to fight for the Russians “.

Wallace agreed.

“It is certainly our view that the Russians intend to invade all of Ukraine,” Wallace In an interview with Britain’s Sky News,He added that Moscow was already “behind its hoped-for schedule” and had lost more than 450 people.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry claims that the Russians suffered 800 casualties, a figure that Moscow disputes.

NBC News did not confirm the numbers of any injuries or deaths from either side.

Putin insisted that his army was winning the war and continued to portray the largest European invasion since World War II as a defensive measure.

“Our soldiers are successfully completing the task of protecting our people and our country,” he said. Russian media.

Ukrainian soldiers move toward the front line with Russian forces in the Lugansk region, Ukraine, on Friday.Anatoly Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images

Igor Konashenkov, the chief spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, insisted that Russian forces were achieving victories throughout Ukraine, but especially in the pro-Russian enclaves of Donetsk and Luhansk in the eastern corners of the country.

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Konachenikov said the Ukrainian army had no part in the fighting there and that “only the Ukrainian Nazi battalions put up fierce resistance.”

The Russians have been, for months now Selling false accusations Nazi elements inside Ukraine to justify an attack on the country.

Putin and Konachenikov once again tried to push back the false claim that Zelensky, the embattled president of Ukraine, is a Jew Three family members are missing in the holocaustUkrainians were used as “human shields”.

“I am addressing Ukrainian citizens,” Konachenikov said. “Your national leadership uses the same methods as the terrorists. They want to use you as a human shield.”

Konashenkov also insisted that “the Russian armed forces will not carry out any strikes against residential areas of the Ukrainian capital.”

But footage has already emerged of apartment buildings in Kiev that have been hit by what appear to be missile strikes. Thousands of residents have already been Hiding in shelters And at metro stations, their sleep was made impossible by fear and the wailing of sirens.

“Right now, Kiev is under attack from the north and south,” Veronika Melkozyrova, executive editor of The New Voice of Ukraine, told MSNBC. Every Ukrainian will fight, and Russia’s journey will not be easy. ”

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