Russian President Vladimir Putin could now be facing a “desperate situation” in the war in Ukraine as his army runs out of ammunition, a British spy chief said Tuesday.
Speaking in an address to the Royal United Services Institute, Jeremy Fleming, head of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), also said Putin is committing “strategic errors in judgment,” citing his decision to mobilize prisoners and inexperienced conscripts to bolster Moscow’s numbers in the war.
“Equipment are staggering. We know and Russian military commanders know that their supplies and ammunition are running out,” Fleming said. “Russia’s forces are exhausted. The use of prisoners to reinforce, and now the mobilization of tens of thousands of inexperienced conscripts, speaks of a desperate situation.”
Despite his assessment, Fleming said Britain is not writing off Russia’s threat, adding that Moscow has proved they still have a “very capable military machine” when they struck dozens of Ukrainian cities on Monday, leaving 14 Ukrainian civilians dead.
In the early months of the invasion, the Russian army captured swaths of territories in the east and south, including Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk. However, a fierce counteroffensive launched by the Ukrainian army in late August has forced Russian troops in many occupied territories to flee, leaving behind so much weaponry and ammunition that Kyiv has struggled to handle, an unnamed Ukrainian soldier, whose call sign is Birdie, told The Telegraph.
“They left a huge amount of vehicles and ammunition. We couldn’t transfer or evacuate it all to our rear,” the soldier told the news outlet.
Apart from ammunition, Russian military units that fled Kharkiv Oblast in early September also left behind functioning tanks, armored vehicles and howitzers. The abandoned equipment was then used by the Ukrainian army to advance further in the Donbas region, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Fleming’s assessment comes as the war stretches into its eighth month. Since February, the Russian army has lost 63,110 soldiers, 2,504 tanks, 5,162 combat armored machines, 1,496 artillery systems and 3,916 vehicles and fuel tanks in combat, per estimates from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.