Putin Plans 'Envelopment' of Ukraine Forces Holding Back Separatists: Clark

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 they'll 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—cut them off, annihilate them. That's a substantial part of Ukraine's army," he said during an 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." He added that while Javelins and Stingers are good for helping defend cities, Ukrainians need stronger equipment such as tanks, mobile artillery, aircraft, fuel, repairs and a lot of ammunition.

"We [the U.S.] don't have that for them. It's got to come from our NATO allies in Eastern Europe. What we're hearing is of course the Ukrainians can really fight. 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 our 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 them the equipment they say they need."

When asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin's objectives and whether he would stop the conflict if he takes over parts of Ukraine, Clark suggested he 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 encountered 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.

Russia Plans ‘Envelopment’ of Ukraine Forces
Retired General Wesley Clark said that Russian troops plan the "envelopment" of Ukrainian forces who are holding back separatists in Donbas. Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting in Moscow on March 10. Photo by MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky alleged in a video address that Russian forces left mines near dead bodies as they retreated.

"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 Rights 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.