Putin facing race against time with Russian morale ‘dangerously low’: ‘Doubt may emerge’

Putin trying to ‘cover up’ deaths says William Hague

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The Russian President appears determined to snatch a meaningful victory in the Donbas and secure the region. The clock is ticking faster and faster as May 9, a crucial date in the Russian calendar, edges closer. May 9 marks the anniversary of the Nazi surrender in World War 2, and Russia celebrates the occasion each year with an emphatic military parade in Moscow’s Red Square.

Western officials have suggested Putin needs to show some form of tangible results in Ukraine ahead of the Victory Parade, with the Donbas offensive expected to be ramped up in a bid to achieve that.

With May 9 less than two weeks away, Putin is already facing a race against time, but this task has only been made harder by the rapidly deteriorating morale of his troops, according to an expert.

Jonathan Jackson, a senior teaching fellow in policing and security at Birmingham City University, told Express.co.uk that morale is “dangerously low”.

He said: “Russian military doctrine has always relied on using quantity rather than quality and focuses on overwhelming enemies using this tried and tested method.

“Russia does not have a good track record when it comes to managing insurgencies successfully, and the longer the war goes on, the more doubt may emerge in Putin and his leadership.

“In the world of dark charisma, the infallible autocratic leader would find it difficult to explain away a defeat of this magnitude.”

He continued: “Insurgences always favour the defender rather than the attacker, and with Russian morale already dangerously low, the longer the conflict drags on, the worse it will get for maintaining the military initiative.

“NATO also shows no intention of reducing supplies to Zelensky’s government, and this has already proven to be significant when understanding why the country’s resistance has been so strong.”

Defence officials in London stressed on Monday morning that Putin’s troops are yet to make a significant breakthrough in the Donbas, and are advancing at a rate of inches.

Estimates of the number of Russian troops killed in Ukraine range from 10,000 to 20,000.

Three or four times as many are believed to have been injured or incapacitated.

Similar sentiment was echoed by journalist Mutaz Ahmed on The Telegraph’s daily podcast ‘Ukraine: The Latest’.

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He claimed the “deep logistical problems” within the Russian army were witnessed in the first stage of the conflict in Ukraine, demonstrated clearly by the failure to seize Kyiv and the subsequent Russian retreat from the region.

He said: “When they withdrew from the area surrounding Kyiv and regrouped and said they would go into the Donbas, there was a sense that we would see, finally, this Russian might, this great lion that we have been imagining.

“The first stage could be written off as a lack of planning or whatever, but what we see is that those problems run very deep.

“This is the same Russian army, they are experiencing the same issues, not much has changed.

“Now you are seeing serious military and strategic thinkers, people like Professor Phillips O’Brien, a strategic academic, saying that the Russian army may not be able to survive in the Donbas.

“Soon they’ll be reliant on conscripts — their morale is even lower there in Donbas than it was in the first stage of the war because you’re sending the same troops who have just suffered defeat.

“They’ve just had to commit war crimes and you’re sending them back into battle without much time to rest. What do you expect?”

More than a week since Russia announced its all-out drive to occupy and conquer eastern Ukraine, and they have hardly advanced at all.

Prof O’Brien, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, said: “These soldiers that were taken out of Kyiv were defeated soldiers – they’d seen and they had committed war crimes, they had seen people die, they were exhausted, their equipment had gone.”

He added that human beings are “not just programmable machines”, and not letting Russian troops rest is “a sign of either stupidity or desperation”.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned there is a “real” threat of World War 3 breaking out if NATO continues to supply Ukraine with weapons.

Speaking to reporters on state television, he said: “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”

He added: “I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger [of World War 3] is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.”

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