Retired U.S. General Wesley Clark said on Sunday that Russia is planning the “envelopment” of Ukrainian troops who are holding back separatists in the Donbas region.
“What’s going to happen is…the Russians are north and south of Dnipro. Dnipro is going to be the next key objective if they can drive to Dnipro and cut off the Ukrainian forces that are holding back the separatists in the Donbas and this is the next Russian objective is to do an envelopment of these forces,” he said during a TV appearance on CNN.
The retired general said that in order to prevent Russians from moving forward with this plan, Ukrainian troops need to have “heavy fighting equipment,” adding that Javelins and Stingers are good for helping defend cities, but Ukrainians need stronger equipment such as tanks, mobile artillery, aircraft, fuel, repairs and a lot of ammunition.
“We [the U.S.] don’t have them. It’s got to come from our NATO allies in Eastern Europe. The Ukrainians are going to really fight because they want to win this fight, ” he said, adding that Ukrainian soldiers know how to use heavy military equipment and that they are just as good as the American military.
“Their soldiers have education just as good as ours. They’re just good technically as we are. We give them more modern weapons they can use them in 24 hours,” Clark said. “So we’re gonna have to do a better job of listening to the Ukrainians for what they need, and get the equipment they say they need.”
When asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s future objectives and whether he would stop the conflict if he takes over parts of Ukraine, Clark suggested that the Russian president will continue to expand his control.
“He wants Ukraine. He wants the Baltic states. He wants control over Eastern Europe. He wants to shatter NATO, and he wants the United States out,” he said. “All he’s trying to do right now is stall. He’d like to stall Western reinforcement of Ukraine. He’d like to have us emotionally [and] morally disarmed to think that’s all he wants, but it isn’t.”
Russian forces withdrew on Saturday from the area around the capital of Kyiv, according to Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar who said in a Facebook post that the region is now free.
The Russian withdrawal happened after troops were faced by fierce Ukrainian forces who fought to keep the capital. Last week, Russia announced that it would direct its efforts to the Donbas region after it failed to take control of Kyiv.
“They are mining the whole territory. They are mining homes, mining equipment, even the bodies of people who were killed. There are a lot of tripwires, a lot of other dangers,” he said.
Zelensky’s claims have not been independently verified, but a report by Human Right Watch published Sunday said that Russian soldiers committed war crimes against civilians in areas they had controlled. The organization said that rape and executions were among the crimes committed.
Newsweek contacted the Russian foreign ministry for comments.