Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to be “getting an honest picture” from his own military chiefs, Western officials believe
Image: SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)
Kremlin top brass could be lying to their President about the invasion’s progress, they believe.
Putin has surrounded himself with a tight inner circle of trusted staff.
But Western officials doubt the loyal acolytes can be honest with or have influence over their feared leader.
One Western official said: “Even if they were capable of influencing him, would they be prepared to tell him the truth about the fairly disastrous progress of this campaign?“I think we are much less certain that he is getting an honest picture on the ground.”
Russian setbacks and Ukrainian resistance since Kremlin troops invaded on February 24 have stunned military experts – and triggered bitter infighting among the Russian hierarchy.
Another official said: “I think it’s also likely that within the Russian system various elements are going to be blaming each other for the lack of success, so that’s going to also complicate the challenge for the truth getting through.
“People will be being quite defensive about their own failures, and, I think, looking to point the finger at others.”
Reported retreats by Moscow forces were evidence of “just how badly President Putin has miscalculated”, they added.
Kremlin spies were guilty of a “catastrophic” intelligence failure in the run-up to the invasion, according to Western officials.
Russians were said to believe that Ukrainians would welcome them over the border.
There have also been claims that agents who realised the potential pitfalls of waging war were too scared to tell superiors.
An official said: “There’s a lot of self-reflection in the intelligence services that they misjudged catastrophically the Ukrainian national mood.
“To the extent that they got it right, they didn’t communicate it properly.”
Praising Ukrainian resistance, the official said the war was “creating – if it did not exist before – a sense of Ukrainian sacrifice and nationhood and an unwillingness to submit to Russia, which will last for generations probably and will make this country impossible to subdue for Russia”.
A No10 spokeswoman said they “agreed on the ongoing need to support and sustain the people of Ukraine in their fight against Russian barbarism”.
She added: “The Prime Minister underscored that we must judge Putin’s regime by their actions not their words.
“Putin is twisting the knife in the open wound of Ukraine in an attempt to force the country and its allies to capitulate.
“The Prime Minister stressed to his fellow leaders that we should be unrelenting in our response.”
Meanwhile, Western agencies continue to examine claims Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, who has been sanctioned by the UK Government, was poisoned on a trip to Kyiv where he was helping with peace talks.
An official said: “They are obviously extremely concerning allegations.
“Let’s just say the Russian system has form in terms of utilising chemical weapons.”