Ukraine-Russia War

Russian soldiers accidentally shot down their own plane and are struggling with low morale, UK spy chief claims

In prepared remarks set to be delivered on Thursday, the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters’ director Sir Jeremy Fleming said that Russian soldiers are “refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment, and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Federal Security Service FSB Chief Alexander Bortnikov attends a signing ceremony while visiting the Kalashnikov Academy on September 19, 2019 in Izhevsk, Russia. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty

Original article on by Azmi Haroun

“It’s only 36 days since Vladimir Putin launched an unprovoked and premeditated attack on Ukraine. It’s been shocking in every sense of the word. But it’s not surprising. We’ve seen this strategy before,” Fleming said, per a readout of his speech. “We saw the intelligence picture building. And we’re now seeing Putin trying to follow through on his plan. But it is failing. And his Plan B has been more barbarity against civilians and cities.”

Fleming spoke at the Australian National University on Thursday, March 31, for a talk about the “generational upheaval” facing global security. In the speech, posted to UK intelligence agency GCHQ’s website, Fleming says that “Putin has massively misjudged the situation.”

“It’s clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people. He underestimated the strength of the coalition his actions would galvanize. He underplayed the economic consequences of the sanctions regime. He over-estimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory,” Fleming said. “We’ve seen Russian soldiers – short of weapons and morale – refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment, and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft.”

Fleming added in his speech that he believes Putin’s advisors are afraid to tell him the truth about “low morale, logistical failures, and high Russian casualty numbers.”

US intelligence officials have similarly argued that Putin is being misinformed because his advisors fear him.

“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisors about how badly the Russian military is performing,” a US official told NBC News on Wednesday.

There have also been reports that a Russian battalion ran over their commander with a tank due to the heavy losses they had suffered.

“The great irony is, of course, that through his actions, Putin has brought upon himself exactly what he was trying to avoid – a Ukraine with a renewed sense of nationhood, a NATO that is more united than ever, and a global coalition of nations that condemn his actions,” per Fleming’s speech.

Late last week, the UN said that at least 1,119 civilians had been killed in Russia’s war on Ukraine. NATO has estimated that between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian troops have died during the course of the war, while Russia has claimed that 1,351 of its soldiers have been killed. In his last update on troop deaths on March 12, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said that 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had died in the war.

This week, Russia claimed it would scale back its military presence around Kyiv and in the northern city of Chernihiv, building a “mutual trust” and focusing on the region of Donbas, but by Wednesday Ukrainian officials reported heavy Russian shelling and civilian casualties in both cities.