British GCHQ spy chief says Russian soldiers refused to carry out orders in Ukraine

GCHQ Director Jeremy Fleming delivers a speech during a meeting with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Watergate House to mark the centenary of GCHQ (Government Communications Head Quarters) in London, UK, Feb. 14, 2019. REUTERS/ Hannah McKay/Pool /File photo

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LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) – The head of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency said on Wednesday that new intelligence showed that some Russian soldiers in Ukraine had refused to carry out orders, sabotaged their own equipment and accidentally shot down one of their own planes .

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 killed thousands, displaced millions and raised fears of a wider confrontation between Russia and the United States. read more

Jeremy Fleming, head of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), said President Vladimir Putin “largely misjudged” the capabilities of Russia’s once-powerful armed forces, while demonstrating both the resistance of the Ukrainian people and the resolve of the West. underestimated, that Moscow has punished with largely coordinated sanctions.

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“Putin has grossly misjudged the situation,” Fleming said in a Canberra address at the Australian National University, according to a transcript of his comments. “We believe that Putin’s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth.”

Citing new intelligence, Fleming said there was evidence that Russian soldiers had low morale and were ill-equipped.

“We’ve seen Russian soldiers — lacking in weapons and morale — refusing to obey orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own plane,” Fleming said.

Reuters could not independently confirm GCHQ’s analysis.

GCHQ, which collects communications from around the world to identify and disrupt threats to Britain, has a close relationship with the US National Security Agency and with the wiretapping services of Australia, Canada and New Zealand in a consortium called “Five eyes”.

The Russian Defense Ministry says its armed forces are professional and carry out their task in Ukraine with considerable success. It says the West has been spreading lies about the operation in an attempt to overthrow Russia.

The United States estimates that Russia has a failure rate as high as 60% for some of its precision-guided missiles, three US officials with intelligence knowledge told Reuters. read more

Putin was misled by advisers who were too scared to tell him how badly the war in Ukraine is going and how damaging Western sanctions have been, US and European officials said Wednesday. read more The Kremlin did not immediately comment.

Putin says the “special military operation” in Ukraine is needed because the United States used Ukraine to threaten Russia and Moscow had to defend itself against Ukraine’s persecution of Russian-speaking people.

Ukraine says it is fighting imperial-style land grabs and Putin’s claims of genocide are nonsense.

Russia says the West has effectively declared economic war on Russia and will now turn east, away from Europe and build a partnership with China.

“But there are risks to both of them (and more to China) if they are too closely aligned,” Fleming said.

“Russia understands that in the long run China will become stronger militarily and economically. Some of their interests clash; Russia could be squeezed out of the equation.”

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Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; edit by Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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