Putin’s advisers ‘too scared’ to tell him truth about disastrous Ukraine invasion

30 March 2022, 23:00 | Updated: 31 March 2022, 07:55

Putin's forces have devastated Ukraine but it appears morale is running out for some
Putin's forces have devastated Ukraine but it appears morale is running out for some. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Russian president Vladimir Putin "didn't even know his military was using and losing conscripts" on such a large scale in Ukraine, intelligence chiefs have said.

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The head of GCHQ Sir Jeremy Fleming said Putin was being lied to by senior figures in the Russian military over the full scale of the failure in Ukraine.

He also revealed troops are refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment "and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft".

Sir Jeremy's comments show a growing rift between Putin and his military command, after Moscow said it would cease its attempts to capture Kyiv.

An official said: "We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military. There is now persistent tension between Putin and the ministry of defence, stemming from Putin's mistrust in the ministry of defence leadership."

The shocking revelations paint a picture of a shambolic invasion which has seen Vladimir Putin's forces get bogged down by staunch resistance.

Sir Jeremy Fleming, the head of the signals intelligence agency GCHQ, said Putin has "massively misjudged" the situation in Ukraine and his cyber warriors could now look to attack countries who oppose Russia.

In a rare address, taking place in Australia, Sir Jeremy said: "We've seen Russian soldiers - short of weapons and morale - refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft.

"And even though we believe Putin's advisers are afraid to tell him the truth, what's going on and the extent of these misjudgements must be crystal clear to the regime.

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"It all adds up to the strategic miscalculation that Western leaders warned Putin it would be. It's become his personal war, with the cost being paid by innocent people in Ukraine and, increasingly, by ordinary Russians too."

Problems among invading forces have been well-documented, as Ukraine promotes videos of their units ambushing tanks, shooting down aircraft and even farmers stealing vehicles in their tractors.

A miles-long column appeared bogged down on routes north of Kyiv, despite observers believing the Kremlin hoped for a swift drive to the capital that would expel Volodymyr Zelenskyy's government and allow the installation of a pro-Moscow regime.

However, a top spy claiming Russians are defying orders, attempting to break their own equipment and calamitously downing their side's aircraft represents yet more turmoil for the invaders.

Sir Jeremy's intervention was at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Ukraine security plan 'would be Nato-style commitment'

In remarks released prior to the speech, he also warned "cyber actors" are looking to target states opposing Russia over the invasion, and GCHQ has disrupted Russian attempts to attack Ukrainian government and military systems.

Sir Jeremy added that while China has been viewed by the Kremlin as a source of weapons, and as a market that allows it to survive tough Western sanctions, President Xi Jinping has a "more nuanced view" of the relationship between the two countries.

Sir Jeremy said: "Russia understands that, long term, China will become increasingly strong militarily and economically. Some of their interests conflict; Russia could be squeezed out of the equation.

"And it is equally clear that a China that wants to set the rules of the road - the norms for a new global governance - is not well served by close alliance with a regime that wilfully and illegally ignores them all."

More than a month after Russian troops went in, Ukraine has proved its determination to retain its independence and in recent days has launched small-scale counter attacks to retake some territory.

Hopes of a peace deal have seen Ukraine's government say it is willing to discuss neutrality, with Putin saying he does not want it to join the Nato alliance.

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