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The war that’s deadlocked: Ukrainian spy chief says Russia is ‘now completely at a dead end’ after significant losses – but Ukraine can’t win without more advanced weapons

  • ‘The situation is just stuck,’ Kyrylo Budanov told the BBC in an interview 
  • Most of the heaviest fighting has taken place around Bakhmut since November 
  • Mr Budanov said Ukraine’s forces lack resources to push forward in several areas

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Fighting in Ukraine is currently at a standstill as both Ukraine and Russia are failing to make significant progress, the head of the Ukrainian military intelligence agency has said.

Kyiv has repeatedly asked for more advanced weapons from Western allies.

Kyrylo Budanov told the BBC in an interview that Russia was now at a dead end having experienced very major losses, and he believed Russia had decided to announce another mobilisation of conscripts.

He argued that Ukrainian forces are still short of resources to push forward in several areas.

Pictured: Major General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Military Intelligence of Ukraine, speaks during an interview with Reuters, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 25, 2022

Pictured: Major General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Military Intelligence of Ukraine, speaks during an interview with Reuters, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 25, 2022

Pictured: Ukrainian servicemen fire with a CAESAR self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions in eastern Ukraine on December 28, 2022

Pictured: Ukrainian servicemen fire with a CAESAR self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions in eastern Ukraine on December 28, 2022

‘We can’t defeat them in all directions comprehensively. Neither can they,’ he said.

‘We’re very much looking forward to new weapons supplies, and to the arrival of more advanced weapons.’

After Ukraine’s forces recaptured the southern city of Kherson in November, most of the heaviest fighting has taken place around Bakhmut, in the eastern Donetsk region, which Russia has been trying to take for months.

There has also been intense conflict further north in the cities of Svatove and Kreminna, where Ukraine is trying to break Russian defensive lines.

Bakhmut was home to 70,000 people before the war.

On Wednesday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there were ‘only a few civilians’ left there after months of fighting.

Earlier this month, after a string of Russian military failures, Ukrainian officials warned that another ground offensive by Moscow’s forces from Belarus could take place at the beginning of 2023.

They said the push could feature a second attempt to capture the capital, Kyiv, and involve tens of thousands of reservists being trained in Russia.

Pictured: A Ukrainian grad launcher fires from the launch, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, on the frontline in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on December 24, 2022

Pictured: A Ukrainian grad launcher fires from the launch, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, on the frontline in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on December 24, 2022

Pictured: Major General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Military Intelligence of Ukraine, speaks during an interview with Reuters, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 25, 2022

Pictured: Major General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Military Intelligence of Ukraine, speaks during an interview with Reuters, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 25, 2022

Pictured: A building burns in the south part of shelled area in Bakhmut, Ukraine on December 21

Pictured: A building burns in the south part of shelled area in Bakhmut, Ukraine on December 21

However, Mr Budanov said Russia’s proceedings in Belarus, including the movement of thousands of troops, were aimed at forcing Ukraine to divert troops from the battlefields in the south and east to the north.

The interview came days after Russian President Vladimir Putin made a trip to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, for the first time in more than three years.

His visit caused fears that he might try to persuade long-time ally President Alexander Lukashenko to send troops from Belarus to Ukraine.

Mr Budanov believes society in Belarus will not get behind any further involvement in the conflict and analysts have raised doubt as to how prepared its army is.

He said that recently a train filled with Russian soldiers stopped in a spot close to the Belarus-Ukraine border and returned, several hours later, with all of the passengers on board.

He said he saw no significant, immediate threat from the troops in Belarus.

Pictured: A soldier of a Ukrainian intelligence battalion takes cover from artillery shelling on the frontline on December 28, 2022 in Bakhmut, Ukraine

Pictured: A soldier of a Ukrainian intelligence battalion takes cover from artillery shelling on the frontline on December 28, 2022 in Bakhmut, Ukraine

Pictured: Smoke billows after Russian attacks in the outskirts of Bakhmut, Ukraine on December 27, 2022

Pictured: Smoke billows after Russian attacks in the outskirts of Bakhmut, Ukraine on December 27, 2022

The fighting in Bakhmut has involved trench warfare reminiscent of World War One.

For Russia, taking the city would sever Ukraine’s supply lines and allow for a push towards other Ukrainian strongholds in the east, including Sloviansk and Kramatorsk

Mr Budanov said the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary army, was leading the offensive.

Its founder, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, is thought to want to take the town as a political trophy, amid rivalries between senior Russian officials.

Russia has been involved in a relentless air campaign since mid-October, hitting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure with drones and missiles, leaving a large chunk of the population without water, heating or electricity,

Mr Budanov said the strikes were likely to continue, but suggested Russia would not be able to sustain the level of the attacks because of diminishing missile reserves, and the inability of Russian industry to replenish them.

Although Iran has provided most of the drones used in Russia’s attacks, the spy chief said it has so far refused to deliver missiles to Russia, aware that Western nations are likely to try to restrict Tehran, already under crippling sanctions because of its nuclear programme.

Mr Budanov firmly believes that Ukraine will retake all the territory now being occupied, including Crimea, the peninsula that Russia took hold of in 2014.

He sees Ukraine returning to its 1991 borders, when independence was declared with the fall of the Soviet Union.

Pictured: Soldiers of a Ukrainian intelligence battalion gather information on the frontline on December 28, 2022 in Bakhmut, Ukraine

Pictured: Soldiers of a Ukrainian intelligence battalion gather information on the frontline on December 28, 2022 in Bakhmut, Ukraine

Pictured: A mortar shell explodes as soldiers of a Ukrainian intelligence battalion evacuate a local resident from a basement with an armoured vehicle on the frontline on December 28, 2022 in Bakhmut, Ukraine

Pictured: A mortar shell explodes as soldiers of a Ukrainian intelligence battalion evacuate a local resident from a basement with an armoured vehicle on the frontline on December 28, 2022 in Bakhmut, Ukraine

Pictured: Major General Kyrylo Budanov, Head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine

Pictured: Major General Kyrylo Budanov, Head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine

Meanwhile, Ukraine was hit with ‘massive’ Russian missile strikes across the country on Thursday, including in the capital Kyiv, the military said.

‘December 29. Massive missiles attack… The enemy is attacking Ukraine from various directions with air and sea-based cruise missiles from strategic aircraft and ships,’ Ukraine’s air force said on social media.

According to presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak, more than 120 missiles were fired.

Two private houses were hit by fragments of downed missiles in the east of the capital while an ‘industrial enterprise’ and a playground were damaged in the city’s southwest, the Kyiv city military administration said.

There was a ‘series of explosions’ in Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv in the east, mayor Igor Terekhov said.

Explosions were also reported in the western city of Lviv, mayor Andryi Sadovyi said.

Lviv region governor Maksim Kozytski said air defence was operating and called on residents to take stay in shelters.

Ukrainian Railways said numerous train lines were delayed as a result of power outages.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on Telegram that the capital could experience power cuts and urged residents to charge their devices and stock up on reserves of water.

Power cuts were also announced in the Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions, aimed at minimising potential damage to the energy infrastructure.

Aftermath of Russian missile strike on a residential area in the Darnytsky district of Kyiv, Ukraine

Aftermath of Russian missile strike on a residential area in the Darnytsky district of Kyiv, Ukraine

Lviv Mayor Andrii Sadovyi said 90 per cent of the western city is without power and also warned of water disruptions as a result of Russian attacks Thursday.

‘We are waiting for more information from the power engineers. Trams and trolleybuses are not running in the city. There may be interruptions in water supply. We are switching to diesel generators at critical infrastructure facilities,’ Sadovyi said on Telegram.

The latest Defence Intelligence update from the Ministry of Defence said: ‘In the early hours of 26 December 2022, Russia’s Engels Air Base was attacked for the second time in three weeks. 

‘Russian media reported that uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) were responsible for the strike on the facility, one of the main operating bases of Russia’s strategic bomber fleet. 

‘Russia has long given a very high priority to maintaining advanced ground-based air defences, but it is increasingly clear that it is struggling to counter air threats deep inside Russia.’ 

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected Volodymyr Zelensky’s ‘peace formula’ as a foundation for negotiations.

According to a report by Russian news agency RIA, Mr Lavrov believes Ukraine is still not a point when it wants to engage in real peace talks.

Mr Lavrov also told RIA that Ukraine’s aim of pushing Russia out of eastern Ukraine and Crimea with Western help was ‘an illusion’.

It comes just a few days after Mr Lavrov appeared to put an end to any immediate prospect of peace talks in the conflict.

Late on Monday night, he told TASS news agency: ‘Our proposals for the demilitarisation and denazification of the territories controlled by the [Ukrainian] regime, the elimination of threats to Russia’s security emanating from there, including our new lands, are well known to the enemy.

‘The point is simple: Fulfil them for your own good. Otherwise, the issue will be decided by the Russian army.’

A video was posted on Twitter today of a Russian TOS-1A thermobaric MLRS ‘in the Bakhmut area from a week ago’. 

Footage shows the weapon being raised from the tank before the several rounds of rockets are fired.

They can be seen exploding on the ground through the eyes of the soldiers firing them, in black and white footage with the crosshair visible.

The TOS-1A is an improved version of the original TOS-1 heavy flamethrower system. 

It was adopted by the Russian Army in 2001.

The TOS-1A heavy flamethrower system is used for direct fire support of advancing infantry units and main battle tanks. It is extremely effective against entrenched personnel. 

The TOS-1A is used to clear out buildings, bunkers and field fortifications. It is also effective against light armoured vehicles. 

In May footage was shared on Telegram channels and by defence expert Rob Lee of the Russians using ripple-like thermobaric missiles on areas held by Ukraine.

Mr Lee tweeted: ‘Russian Orlan-10 UAV footage reportedly of TOS-1A thermobaric MLRS strikes on Ukrainian positions.’

Thermobaric bombs work in two stages. When a charge is deployed, the first blast sprays a fuel vapour throughout the surrounding area.

A second blast then ignites the vapour cloud in the air. 

Thermobaric bombs are not banned under international law, but countries using them risk being convicted of a war crime. 

Source: Daily Mail UK

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