Russian soldiers ‘poor morale and refuse to follow orders’

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The head of a British spy agency visiting Australia has said some Russian soldiers are inside Ukraine have refused to carry out orders and Vladimir Putin has seriously misjudged the conflict.

Sir Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ, the listening center for British intelligence, said at the Australian National University in Canberra: “It increasingly appears that Putin has misjudged the situation greatly.

“Clearly he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people.”

A Ukrainian man looks at a damaged Russian tank in the town of Trostsyanets, about 400 km east of Kiev. Western experts say the Russian offensive is plagued with major problems. (AP)

Sir Jeremy said Putin had overestimated the capabilities of the Russian military to secure a quick victory.

“We have seen Russian soldiers – short of weapons and morale – refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own plane,” he said.

Ukrainian military sources claimed early in the war, which began on February 24, that a Russian ship in the Black Sea destroyed an aircraft in “friendly fire”, although it was not confirmed by Russia.

It was unclear whether this was one of the incidents raised by Sir Jeremy.

Sir Jeremy also said Mr Putin was also hampered by the reluctance of senior Kremlin advisers to tell him the truth about Russia’s dizzying military campaign.

Sir Jeremy said British intelligence experts have “seen Russia’s continued intent to disrupt Ukraine’s government and military systems” and have seen indicators pointing to Russian cyber actors seeking targets in countries opposing the Kremlin’s actions.

He said it is “clear” that Russia is using mercenaries and foreign fighters to support its forces, including the Wagner group.

“The group works as a shadow branch of the russian armywhich offers an unlikely denial for riskier operations,” said Sir Jeremy, adding that Wagner is now ready to send a large number of personnel to Ukraine to fight on the Russian side.

“They are looking at moving troops from other conflicts and recruiting new fighters to bolster the numbers,” he said.

“These soldiers will probably be used as cannon fodder to limit Russian military losses.”

Members of a Wagner mercenary, whose faces are blurred, operate in the Syrian desert. (CNN)

On China’s position in the Ukraine conflict, Sir Jeremy said there are risks to Russia and China from too close coordination between the two countries.

“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,” he said.

Maria Pavlovych cries as she remembers her 25-year-old soldier's son, Roman Pavlovych, who was killed near the besieged city of Mariupol, in his bedroom, in the village of Hordynia, in western Ukraine, on Friday, March 25, 2022. The Pavlovych family knows a second front line in the Russian war runs through farmland here in western Ukraine, far from the daily resistance to the invasion.  It is an uphill battle for farmers to feed not only their land but also the world.

Mother’s tears amid ongoing attack on Ukraine

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