Putin faces ‘hard slog’ in push for Ukraine victory, says UK forces chief

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President Vladimir Putin is trying to rush to claim victory in Ukraine as Russian forces continue to struggle for momentum, the head of the British military has said.

In an interview with TalkTV’s The News Desk, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff, said there was “incredible pressure” in Russia for the campaign to deliver results.

After 10 weeks of fighting, however, he said the rate at which Russian forces were using missiles and other armaments meant Mr Putin was engaged in a “logistics war” to keep them supplied.

“He potentially has a problem, because the rate of expenditure and the toughness of the fight is totally different to the one that he perceived on February 24,” Admiral Radakin said.

“We’re talking severe impact on their armed forces. We’ve had 25% of their forces effectively being taken out – either through people being killed or through the damage to their battalion tactical groups.”

While there were “real risks” the Russians could gain ground in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine – the new focus of their offensive – he said they had little time to make the improvements needed after they were driven back from the capital Kyiv.

“You’re also seeing, on a daily basis, Russia struggling to get the momentum, struggling to align its air forces with its land forces and struggling to get what we call a modern campaign which creates that momentum,” he said.

He said the Russians were in for a “hard slog” and questioned whether the “rushed manner” in which Mr Putin was seeking to achieve victory would succeed.

“I think what we’re now seeing is incredible pressure – political pressure and military pressure – for a victory,” he said.

“This is going to be a tough fight. And it’s going to carry on being a tough fight. This is going to be a hard slog.

“You’re seeing the tactical fight, where he’s trying to rush to a tactical victory, and then he’ll push that with his own people.”

Admiral Radakin confirmed Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had warned Chancellor Rishi Sunak that rising inflation and the need to arm Ukraine meant the UK could miss its commitment to spend 2% of national income on defence.

Mr Wallace was reported to have written to the Chancellor ahead of the Spring Statement in March that the Nato spending target was in jeopardy but had received no reply.

“We’re a big-spending department and we have regular conversations at all levels with the Treasury,” Admiral Radakin said.

“The Defence Secretary writing to the Chancellor to say this is our view of where defence spending is going, I think is pretty normal business.

“At the moment, under this spending review, we’re above 2% through the whole period. And then it starts to peter off, I think, in 2024/25.

“At the moment the trajectory is going up and then it gets really close staying above 2%. Then that needs to be a fresher conversation, because the ambition of this Government is to stay above 2%.”

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister discussed developments on the battlefield with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

In a call on Thursday afternoon, Boris Johnson noted “how important Ukraine’s democratic values are as a counterweight to Russia’s failing autocracy”, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The pair also spoke about the Ukrainian armed forces’ requirements, including the provision of longer-range weaponry to prevent the bombardment of civilians, the spokesperson added.

– The full interview with Admiral Radakin is broadcast on Talk TV at 7pm on Thursday.

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