Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

Vladimir Putin “massively misjudged” the invasion of Ukraine according to a British spy chief who said that Russian soldiers were refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and had mistakenly shot down their own aircraft.

Jeremy Fleming, head of Britain’s signals intelligence agency GCHQ, said Putin had “overestimated the capabilities of his military to secure a rapid victory” and that his advisers were “afraid to tell him the truth” about a campaign that was “occupied by problems” .

“We are now seeing Putin trying to follow through on his plan. But it is failing. And his plan-B has been more barbarity against civilians and cities, ”Fleming said in a speech to the Australian National University. “We’ve seen Putin lie to his own people in an attempt to hide military incompetence.”

The British intelligence chief said that Russian soldiers who were rejecting orders and damaging their own equipment were “short of weapons and morale”, adding: “It increasingly looks like Putin has massively misjudged the situation.”

“It’s clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people. He underestimated the strength of the coalition his actions would galvanize. He underplayed the economic consequences of the sanctions regime. ”

US officials concurred that Putin aides were withholding information from the president. “We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions,” a US official said.

Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, said: “One of the Achilles heels of autocracies is that you do not have people in those systems who speak truth to power or who have the ability to speak truth to power. And I think that is something that we’re seeing in Russia. ”

Fleming said that mercenaries, including the Russia-backed Wagner Group, were sending more foreign personnel to the region. “These soldiers are likely to be used as cannon fodder to try to limit Russian military losses,” he said.

On China, the GCHQ head warned that Beijing’s global interests were “not well served” by siding with Moscow.

“We know both Presidents Xi [Jinping] and Putin place great value on their personal relationships. . . but there are risks to them both, and more for China, in being too closely aligned. ”

Beijing “wants to set. . . the norms for a new global governance ”, he noted, yet Russia was a regime“ that willfully and illegally ignores them all ”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to the Australian Parliament on Thursday and called for further military assistance, including Australian Bushmaster armored vehicles, and even stricter sanctions against Russia.

He warned MPs that the Russian invasion represented a danger to Australia due to the threat of nuclear war and of other countries feeling emboldened to act in a similar way. “Unpunished evil comes back with a feeling of almightiness,” he said through a translator.

In a video address late on Wednesday, Zelensky warned that Russia was massing troops to launch new strikes in eastern Ukraine after Moscow said it had moved to “fully liberate” the Donbas region.

Earlier this week Russia’s defense ministry said it was pulling out of big cities in Ukraine’s north and west, including the capital Kyiv and Chernihiv, in order to focus on the east of the country.

Igor Konashenkov, a spokesperson for Russia’s defense ministry, said on Wednesday that the military was moving into the “final phase” of its operations in eastern Ukraine in order to “complete the operation to fully liberate the Donbas”, the mostly Russian-speaking border region in eastern Ukraine.

Zelensky said: “We do not believe anyone – we do not trust any beautiful verbal constructions.”

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