Russian army 'lacks striking force' to retake territory captured by Ukrainians

Putin's troops are bogged down without enough resources to achieve their objectives, British intelligence says

Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions at the frontline near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. AP
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Russian forces are unlikely to make significant advances in Ukraine over the next several months, British intelligence says.

President Vladimir Putin’s army lacks the capabilities to retake much of the territory which fell to the Ukrainians in their counter-offensive in the east of the country, the UK has said.

The update came as G7 leaders prepared to hold a virtual meeting on Monday to discuss Ukraine’s immediate needs after Russian attacks on its national energy infrastructure.

EU foreign ministers are also meeting in Brussels to discuss how to support Ukraine through the winter.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence assessed comments made by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on December 8.

Following comments from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the war would be over by next year, Mr Peskov was asked when the “special military operation” would be brought to a close.

“You can speculate until blue in the face when it all can end,” he said. “Zelenskyy knows when it all might end, it all might end tomorrow if he wishes.”

He also said that one of Russia’s main objectives was the “protection” of residents of the Donbas and south-eastern Ukraine but claimed there was still much work to be done regarding the “liberation” of those territories.

“Peskov’s comments suggest that Russia’s current minimum political objectives of the war remain unchanged,” the ministry said.

“Russia is likely still aiming to extend control over all of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson Oblasts. Russian military planners likely still aim to prioritise advancing deeper into Donetsk Oblast.

“However, Russia’s strategy is currently unlikely to achieve its objectives: it is highly unlikely that the Russian military is currently able to generate an effective striking force capable of retaking these areas.

“Russian ground forces are unlikely to make operationally significant advances within the next several months.”

Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz will chair the G7 meeting focused on Ukraine’s energy security.

US President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday affirmed Washington’s support for Ukraine. The US has promised $38 billion in military support and delivered $13 billion in direct aid to Ukraine already.

Russian and US diplomats met in Istanbul on Friday to discuss a number of technical issues in their relationship, such as visas.

Russia on Monday accused the US of not taking a constructive approach to the meeting, but said the Turkish city was a good place to meet.

“Istanbul is a convenient place for such contacts,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin was quoted as saying by the state RIA Novosti news agency on Monday. “I can say that any contacts are useful, but, unfortunately, we do not see a constructive approach from the American side aimed at concrete results.”

A meeting between US CIA Director William Burns and Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia's SVR foreign intelligence service, in Ankara last month triggered speculation about back channel talks between Moscow and Washington.

Mr Putin said last week that the CIA meeting was requested by Mr Biden and that the CIA-SVR contacts were continuing.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops have repelled attacks near 10 settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk since Sunday, Ukraine’s general staff said on Facebook.

Russian forces conducted two missile strikes against civil infrastructure in the Donbas city of Kostyantynivka and 11 air attacks on targets along the contact line, the post said. More than 60 assaults had been conducted with multiple-launch rocket systems against civilian targets in the southern city of Kherson and at Ukrainian military positions, the post added.

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Updated: December 12, 2022, 10:15 AM
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