White House says Ukraine has shifted momentum, cautions 'war is unpredictable'

The White House on Tuesday characterized advances by Ukrainian forces against Russia as a “shift in momentum” but cautioned that the ongoing war in Ukraine remains unpredictable.

“I think what you’re seeing is certainly a shift in momentum by the Ukrainian armed forces,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters at a briefing.

Counteroffensives by Ukraine in the northern and southern parts of the country have pushed back invading Russian forces, especially in the north. 

Kirby acknowledged the Ukrainians had successfully forced Russians to reposition forces and withdraw from certain parts of the country, but he was careful not to categorize it as a sign that Ukraine had fully turned the tide roughly six months into the invasion.

“These are some dramatic events we’re watching, but it’s war. And war is unpredictable,” Kirby said, adding that he would leave it to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to say if he felt it marked a turning point.

Zelensky on Monday said his forces had recaptured 6,000 square kilometers of land in the east and south of Ukraine since the start of September. Included in the cities reclaimed was Izyum, considered key in the fight. 

The loss of Izyum marks Russia’s worst military defeat since March, when its troops were unable to take the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and were forced back.

The United States and allies have imposed sanctions on Russia’s economy and leaders in Moscow in the months since Russia invaded Ukraine, aiming to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to reverse course.

The Biden administration has also provided more than $1 billion in defense assistance to Ukraine, sending weapons and ammunition to aid Ukrainian forces.

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