Western intelligence officials have warned that Russia could still “win” the war in Ukraine, despite bungling its initial invasion.
“[Vladimir] Putin has clearly failed in meeting his initial pre-war objectives,” an official told Reuters. But he is “still in a position to win”.
The Times, which said the war is now expected to last until the end of the year, reported that Western intelligence suggests Putin has made tactical adjustments after his troops were “humiliated” in the first two months of the invasion.
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Putin has appointed an experienced commander to oversee the second phase of Russia’s war effort. General Alexander Dvornikov led Moscow’s intervention in Syria, where he ordered the bombing of Aleppo.
Russia’s troops now outnumber Ukrainian forces in the east three to one and could encircle and “destroy” a significant proportion, officials told The Times. It is also thought that Russia could launch a new assault on Kyiv or cut the Ukrainian capital off from the Black Sea.
The main focus of the war is the eastern Donbas region, which is largely “flat with firm terrain”, said The Times, which will pose fewer problems for Russian artillery and tanks compared to northern Ukraine.
However, added the official, the invasion would remain a “strategic blunder” for Russia given the substantial losses its army has suffered and the way the conflict has changed Europe’s security architecture to Russia’s detriment.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has said that Russia’s gains in the east of the country are only temporary. In his latest daily address, he said: “They can only delay the inevitable, the time when the invaders will have to leave our territory.”
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