Russian army risks 'collapse' as Putin sees casualties as 'price worth paying'

31 May 2022, 06:37 | Updated: 31 May 2022, 16:49

Putin wants to capture the Donbas, after narrowing his aim from the start of the war amid humiliating setbacks
Putin wants to capture the Donbas, after narrowing his aim from the start of the war amid humiliating setbacks. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Will Taylor

Secretive analysis of the invasion of Ukraine suggests the Russian army could collapse in the face of mounting casualties.

A report, seen by senior officials in the British government, says Vladimir Putin believes he can win a "partial victory" despite Kremlin insiders trying to convince him the invasion has been a disaster.

His forces have narrowed their focus from their failed original goal of overthrowing Volodymyr Zelenskyy's democratically elected government with a pro-Moscow regime, having been forced into a humiliating retreat from the capital Kyiv.

They have now concentrated on seizing the rest of the Donbas, part of which was already held by Russian-backed breakaway rebels.

As part of that advance, they are hoping to seize Sievierodonetsk, the focus of heavy fighting in recent days.

But this report, written by a "top UK analyst on Russia" and seen by The Mirror, said Putin believes potential losses of 30,000 troops is a "price worth paying" for taking the eastern regions of Ukraine.

The report added: "Russia's attempt to achieve a speedy and decisive victory in the Donbas has not yet succeeded. They are still grinding forward, gaining 1-2km a day.

Russian forces may have lost up to 30,000 troops
Russian forces may have lost up to 30,000 troops. Picture: Getty

Huge shockwaves seen as Russians shell Ukrainian positions in the Donetsk region

"The Russians are now achieving what successes they have mostly by means of a slogging match with repeated, very costly, infantry attacks reminiscent of 1945 not 2022.

"The gross failures of the campaign Putin has so far been able to hide quite well from the Russian public, or to blame on various officials, who have been arrested and replaced.

"The Russian population until recently bought Putin's disinformation. We have seen an attempt within the Kremlin to get a message across to Putin and his closest team that things are going wrong, perhaps even catastrophically wrong."

Read more: I'd shoot Putin with my Kalashnikov if given the chance, Ukrainian MP tells LBC

Russia's disastrous invasion has likely seen "devastating" casualties among its mid and junior ranking officers, Britain's Defence Intelligence has said.

They are likely to be deploying forwards to the frontlines "because they are held to an uncompromising level of responsibility for their units' performance", it said on Monday.

Sievierodonetsk has been heavily damaged by Russian shelling
Sievierodonetsk has been heavily damaged by Russian shelling. Picture: Alamy

An update released by the Ministry of Defence said: "With multiple credible reports of localised mutinies amongst Russia's forces in Ukraine, a lack of experienced and credible platoon and company commanders is likely to result to a further decrease in morale and continued poor discipline."

Russia commentator Bruce Jones told The Mirror: "There has to be a point when Russian forces cannot take any more losses, a cut-off point.

"This would be a straw that broke the camel's [back] moment, where units would no longer be able to function as a fighting force because they are so depleted.

Read more: Putin survived assassination attempt just days into war, Ukraine says

"It has happened before and on a small scale it is happening now - so this could become a reality."

Sievierodonetsk could become the next Mariupol – a city devastated by enormous Russian bombardments.

Fierce street fighting has broken out between Ukrainian defenders and Russians who have advanced a few blocks towards the centre. The latter are also trying to encircle it.

Up to 13,000 people are still in the city, which is normally home to 100,000, and are sheltering in basements and bunkers.

About 90% of buildings in the city have been damaged by Russian artillery.

President Zelenskyy has called the situation there "indescribably difficult".