A large deployment of Russian ground forces, containing hundreds of military vehicles, are seen in convoy northeast of Ivankiv, Ukraine on February 27, 2022.

A large deployment of Russian ground forces, containing hundreds of military vehicles, are seen in convoy northeast of Ivankiv, Ukraine on February 27, 2022. Getty Images / Maxar

‘The Convoy Is Stalled’: Logistics Failures Slow Russian Advance, Pentagon Says

Ukraine says captured Russian troops say they were sent with only three days of food.

A 40-mile column of Russian invaders has stalled on the way to Kyiv, opening itself to attack by Ukrainians, a senior defense official told reporters Wednesday. 

“We believe that the convoy is stalled,” the official said. “They are not moving at any rate that would lead one to believe that they've solved their problems,” which still include a lack of food, fuel, and spare parts. 

Some Ukrainian troops have also targeted the convoy, although in limited fashion, the official said.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s security service posted a video of a captured Russian soldier who says he and his unit were sent across the border with only three days’ food. 

“Putin expected to capture Ukraine in three days,” Ukraine’s security service wrote above the video, which could not be independently verified. “By the order of the top Russian leadership, the phones and documents were taken from the fire brigades, removed food and water for three days and sent to war with Ukraine,” the agency said, according to the English translation of the post. 

Insufficient food is among the missteps that have slowed the Russian advance, and perhaps edged Russia into more ferocious and indiscriminate use of missiles and airstrikes. As of Wednesday, Pentagon officials had counted roughly 450 such strikes on Ukrainian targets.

The senior defense official said Pentagon leaders expect the invasion to accelerate as Russia adjusts and gets provisions to its forces inside Ukraine.

The fighting and air strikes have been deadly for both sides, although it was impossible to verify casualty numbers. Russia state media RIA Novosti reported Wednesday that 498 Russian soldiers had been killed and 1,597 wounded as of Wednesday; the Ukrainian defense ministry said those numbers were far higher. 

In televised remarks Wednesday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that “in six days of war—this is without counting the losses of the enemy last night—6,000” had died, Zelensky said. “To get what? Get Ukraine? It is impossible.”  

Ukrainian officials also said 2,000 civilians had been killed through Wednesday, but did not say how many Ukrainian soldiers had died. On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal captured video of Russian ambulances bringing wounded Russians to aid in Belarus. 

Russia has inserted about 82 percent of the forces it had arrayed along Ukraine’s border, the official said, and around some Ukrainian cities, seemed to be positioning for a longer-term siege. 

Those logistical and planning challenges seemed to reveal that Russian president Vladimir Putin kept almost all of his senior leaders, even his generals—who would have overseen the logistical needs—in the dark about his complete plans for Ukraine, several experts told Defense One on Tuesday. 

“It’s pretty clear the nature of this operation was kept secret from all but a close handful of people,” said RAND Corporation senior political scientist Sam Charap. 

U.S. observers are also surprised that Russia has not engaged in the fully integrated warfare tactics it has aggressively trained on as it modernized its military forces. 

“They don't appear to be integrating their combined arms capabilities to the degree that you would think they would do for an operation of this size and scale and complexity,” the official said. “We've been talking for weeks about the combined arms capabilities, armor, artillery, infantry, special operations, combat, aviation, logistics sustainment…the integration of these elements appears to be lacking.”