Putin gave the order as Washington believes Russian forces are suffering unexpected setbacks on the battlefield during their four-day invasion due to heavy Ukrainian resistance and planning failures that left some units without fuel or other supplies, U.S. officials said.

The Pentagon learned of the heightened Russian alert from Putin’s televised announcement, the senior US defense official said, rather than from US intelligence sources.

Immediately after Putin’s speech, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and US Commander-in-Chief for Europe General Tod Wolters held a meeting pre-scheduled at 8:30 a.m. (1:30 p.m. GMT) at where they discussed the Russian president’s decision.

Although Washington is still gathering information, Putin’s decision is troubling, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It’s clearly, essentially, bringing forces into play that, if miscalculated, could make things much, much more dangerous,” the official said.

Asked if the United States would continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine after Putin’s announcement, the official said: “That support will go forward.”

As missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities, thousands of civilians, mostly women and children, fled the Russian onslaught into neighboring countries.

The capital Kiev was still in the hands of the Ukrainian government, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rallying his people.

The United States estimates that Russia has fired more than 350 missiles at Ukrainian targets so far, some hitting civilian infrastructure. But the US official expressed deep concern over what the Pentagon sees as indications that Russian forces – which have largely appeared to be focused on military targets – may be changing strategy.

Citing a Russian offensive on the Ukrainian town of Chernihiv, north of Kiev, the official cited early signs that Russia was adopting siege tactics.

“It appears they are adopting a siege mentality, which any student of military tactics and strategy will tell you, when you adopt siege tactics it increases the likelihood of collateral damage,” the official said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart

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