The Russian Navy could land more of its marines near the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which remains contested nearly two months into Moscow’s invasion, a senior defense official told reporters Monday.
Reports from the Ukrainian military suggest Russia, which has failed to take the port city of Mariupol 54 days into its invasion of Ukraine, might use landing ships to bring in reinforcements, the defense official said. The Pentagon could not independently verify the claims but also could not deny them.
Russia used an amphibious assault early on in the invasion, bringing troops into areas near Mariupol. While on the way to Mariupol, Russian troops captured the port city Berdiansk.
Russia currently has a tank landing ship in the Sea of Azov, and it could have more in the Black Sea, the defense official said.
“They do have some amphibious capability, certainly in the Black Sea and in the Sea of Azov,” the official said. “So it’s certainly within the realm of the possible there.”
While the Russian troops have not captured Mariupol, the defense official called the city “contested and isolated.”
The concentration of Russian artillery and airstrikes have been in the Donbas region and in Mariupol, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Monday afternoon.
“The Ukrainians are still resisting,” Kirby said. “The city has not fallen to the Russians, but they continue to pound it from the air and through long range fires.”
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is currently maintaining a standoff distance since the sinking of RTS Moskva (121) last week. The Moskva sank after being hit by Ukrainian Neptune missiles, a senior defense official told reporters Friday, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The Pentagon could not say how many crew members survived or perished. It appears that some crew members did survive, while the damage to the warship suggests others died, the senior defense official said Monday. There are no indications Russia is attempting to recover the ship.
The Ukrainian defense ministry claimed Neptune missiles struck Moskva, causing the damage that ultimately led to her sinking. Moscow said it was a fire that broke out on the ship, causing an explosion, USNI News previously reported.
The senior defense official could not comment on if Russia’s missile attacks on Kharkiv and Kyiv over the weekend were retaliatory for Moskva‘s sinking.