Russian troops in Ukraine are “exhausted” and may “crack” before the year is out, according to a retired US army general.
Ben Hodges, who served in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, disagreed with predictions that the conflict could extend into drawn-out war of attrition.
Speaking on the day Ukrainians are marking 31 years of their country’s independence from the former Soviet Union, Hodges told Times Radio: “I disagree that this is going to drag on and that the Ukrainians really don't have a chance to push the Russians out.
“I think actually the Russians are exhausted, Their logistics system is exhausted.
“There's nothing they can do except continue launching artillery against civilian targets. Even that has dropped off significantly in the last few weeks.”
Hodges, 64, added that if Ukraine succeeds in keeping Russian troops at bay then “there is a very real possibility that the Russians will crack”.
His comments were backed up by defence secretary Ben Wallace, who said this morning that he believes Russia is in a “very fragile position”.
Watch: Ukrainians warned of increased Russian military action on Independence day
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Wallace said: “I spoke to my intelligence chiefs this morning before coming on, you know, Russia’s advance can be measured in metres per week, not miles.
“It is grinding in small parts of the country in an attempt to advance – completely opposite of the three-days special operation that it touted at the beginning of this, six months ago.
“We pretty much accept, well, we do accept, the sort of observations of Russian losses to be – if you combine deaths, injuries, desertions – over 80,000 of their armed forces. That’s 80,000 in six months compared to 15,000 they lost in a decade in Afghanistan.
“I think we are in a position where Russia is in a very fragile position.”
On whether Ukraine is realistically in a position to retake the territory that Russia still holds, Wallace added: “I think Ukraine is getting itself into that position.
“First and foremost, Ukraine already has had throughout this the moral component, as we call it in defence, and if you look at the morale of the Ukrainian forces, it is, you know, it is leagues ahead of the Russian morale, you know, which is poorly-trained troops, etc.”
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has told world leaders that Putin must not be allowed to repeat the annexation of Crimea in other parts of Ukraine.
The prime minister said allies should continue to support Ukraine until Russian forces withdrew from the “entirety” of its territory.
Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014 and Johnson warned that Putin would seek to repeat the process in other parts of Ukraine following the invasion by Moscow’s forces six months ago.
In a remote address to the international Crimea Platform conference hosted by Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Johnson said the peninsula had been turned into an “armed camp” by Russia since 2014 and was used as one of the launch pads for the invasion in February.
Ukraine’s independence day has led to concerns that Russia may step up military action, with the United States issuing a security alert about the prospect of strikes against Ukraine’s “civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days”.