The United States defers to Ukraine’s leadership in its prioritization of the hard-fought battle for Bakhmut, and will continue to ensure the country's president has “what he needs, wherever he chooses to fight, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday.
Asked by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour whether Kyiv was spending too much time in the fight for Bakhmut, Kirby said Ukrainians are still "bravely fighting" in the eastern city and the area is "very vicious."
"Here we are on the 21st of March and Bakhmut still has not fallen to the Russians," Kirby said.
"So the Ukrainians are prioritizing this fight — the Russians have clearly prioritized this fight, and what we’re going do is stay focused on making sure that President [Volodymyr] Zelensky has what he needs, wherever he chooses to fight. That means intelligence. That means support. That means weapons. That means capabilities. That’s what we’re going to be focused on.”
Battles to come: Ukraine is preparing to launch a spring offensive against Russian forces, built largely around the more powerful and more advanced systems Western countries have agreed to send, including tanks and other armored vehicles.
Kirby said the coming weeks would be "critical," in the war and the US expected Russian President Vladimir Putin would "try to mount another offensive and maybe along many different vectors."
"We have got to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make sure Ukraine is ready for that," he said.
Kirby said the US wants to ensure Ukrainians can defend themselves against any renewed Russian offensive while also having the flexibility to "conduct offensive operations of their own at a time and place and a size and a scale of their choosing."
"That’s where we’re taking battalions out of Ukraine right now and putting them through combined arms maneuver training," he said. "That’s why they’re ramping up training on things like the Patriot air defense system. We’re doing everything we can to make sure that they’re ready as best they can be before these critical weeks and months ahead.”