Ukrainian artillery is “frustrating” Russian efforts to advance in the Donbas, according to a senior US defense official, particularly as Russia attempts to move forces across the Donets River to reinforce their position in the northern Donbas.
The official said there is a lot of fighting between Izium and Sloviansk, but the Russians have not been able to make much progress there.
However, Russian forces have made “incremental” gains to the west of Popasna, according to the official.
Meanwhile, the "vast majority" of the 89 M777 howitzer artillery systems the US has given to Ukraine are "in the fight" and are in a "forward-deployed setting," the official told reporters Friday.
"The feedback we’re getting from artillery men inside Ukraine is very positive about the usefulness of the M777s," the official said.
About 30 Ukrainian soldiers have completed a maintenance course for the M777 howitzers, and another 17 are in the two-week maintenance course now, the official said, adding that 370 Ukrainian soldiers have completed training on how to use the howitzers.
About 20 Ukrainians are "in the midst of the training on the Puma," which is an unmanned aerial system, and training on the Phoenix Ghost has also been completed, the official added.