Contradicting prior reports and speculation that Russia's military had pledged to President Putin that it would liberate the Donbas region by Russia's 'Victory Day' celebrations on May 9, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday asserted that this is not likely to happen, nor will Moscow set any artificial timeframes.
"Our troops won’t artificially base their activities on a specific date, including Victory Day," he said after being asked about international reports on the question of timeframe. "We will solemnly celebrate May 9 the way we always do," Lavrov added.
He described that protection of civilians would necessitate taking longer to complete the special operation, which has been focused in Ukraine's east.
On the same day the Pentagon weighed in on its own assessment of Russia's progress, saying that in the Donbas, Russian gains have been "minimal at best".
A Pentagon official further told Axios that Russian forces are suffering under "poor" command and control and ongoing logistical problems, which has contributed to low morale.
The assessment comes after a secretive visit last week to the front lines in Donbas of chief of staff of Russia’s forces and President Vladimir Putin's top military adviser Gen. Valery Gerasimov. This high-risk battlefield trip, revealed in international press on Monday, was widely seen in the West as in response to Kremlin frustration over the stalled advance.
The Pentagon also assessed the following to Axios:
The US official described the Russians' operations in the Donbas as "very cautious, very tepid, very uneven," attributing some of the failures to "a risk and casualty aversion" that has persisted in both the air and on the ground.
"They'll move in [to an area], declare victory and then withdraw their troops, only to let the Ukrainians take it back," the official detailed of why the Russians aren't holding more territory.
#Kharkiv and #Izyum Update:— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) May 1, 2022
The report of #Ukrainian positions in #Udy suggests that Ukrainian forces hold more territory to the north of Kharkiv City than ISW had previously assessed. https://t.co/iBzZK1TgOW pic.twitter.com/awlwcjpcIh
Meanwhile, in a Monday statement the Pentagon also revealed that at this point, 68 days into the war, more than 5,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles have made it to Ukrainian forces. And an estimated 80% of the Howitzers thus far pledged to Ukraine have now been delivered to the country.