Russia armoured vehicles convoy wiped out by Ukrainian attack
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The Russian military is “exhausted” and in a “desperate situation” in Ukraine, a top UK intelligence official has said. Jeremy Fleming made the comments while speaking at an event for the Royal United Services Institute this week, during which he said that Russia’s “supplies and munitions are running out” as Ukrainian troops continue to take back key regions in their counter-offensive.
The increasingly bleak outlook for Vladimir Putin’s soldiers has made headlines across the globe in recent weeks, as President Putin launched a partial mobilisation and changed his military’s leadership to try and turn the tide.
But Dr Lucy Birge, a Russia specialist from the University of Manchester, has said that some of Russia’s shortcomings are too big to overcome. Speaking to Monocle 24’s The Globalist podcast on Tuesday, she echoed Jeremy Fleming’s comments when describing just how poorly equipped Moscow’s military is in Ukraine.
Not only are the Russians running low on basic military equipment, but they are also having to do without other essentials like sleeping bags, she said.
Dr Birge also looked at polling which suggests that 20 percent more Russians are feeling anxious about the war since Putin’s partial mobilisation.
She said: “We are talking a registered uptake of over 20 percent in terms of anxiety amongst the Russian population since September. It is very difficult at this stage to know how this will translate, and whether this will translate, into any widespread public dissent.
“It depends very much on the battleground, how the war continues. The Russian army is suffering from severe shortages, not only of manpower, but also of weaponry and basic equipment such as sleeping bags and body armour.
“As that continues to play out, and there’s inevitably more casualties among those who were called up to fight in the last couple of weeks, we might see that dissent begins to grow and that there is more of a willingness to protest.”
According to reports, at least a small number of the men called up to fight in recent weeks have started to vent their frustration. The Insider published a video last week in which Russian soldiers lament the “inhumane” conditions they’ve had to live in.
One soldier is heard saying: “We’ve lived in animal conditions for a week. “We’ve spent an absurd amount of money just to feed ourselves, not to mention on ammunition.”
In August, a former Russian soldier who fought in Ukraine made similar claims while talking to the Guardian. Pavel Filatyev, a paratrooper who was deployed in Kherson, southern Ukraine, said he and his colleagues were “pushed to the limit” after having no normal food for weeks.
He added that the Russian troops acted like “savages” as they stole food and even computers from deserted shops.
Aside from recruiting more soldiers, Putin has also taken other measures to try and improve his military’s performance. He recently appointed General Sergei Surovikin to command Russia’s forces in Ukraine.
He has a reputation for being brutal. General Surovikin led Russia’s violent intervention in Syria in 2017, which saw indiscriminate bombing and the use of chemical weapons against anti-government forces. This week’s missile strikes across Ukraine appear to also be his doing.
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Dr Birge believes Putin appointed the new general to try and stem the growing criticism coming from influential ultra-nationalists in Russia. But she doesn’t think this plan will work.
She said: “The appointment of General Surovikin is mainly a tactic to quell some of the criticism that the Russian military has received from various members of the elite, including Kadyrov, the president of Chechnya, and some of the more hardline voices in the country,
“Yes, he is known for his brutality. The strikes we saw across Ukraine clearly show that he is deploying a similar approach to that in Syria – terrorising civilian populations and trying to break their resolve.
“While he is an experienced and competent general, I don’t think that putting him in charge is anything more than a cosmetic change. It’s really unlikely to alter the key facts on the battleground. Russia is running out of long-range weapons and has a severe shortage of manpower.”
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