UK intelligence chief says Russian soldiers are low on morale and refusing to carry out orders

The head of British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) said Putin has massively misjudged the situation in Ukraine and that some Russian soldiers have refused to carry out orders.

Speaking during a trip to Canberra on Thursday at the Australian National University, Sir Jeremy Fleming, Director of GCHQ, the UK’s Intelligence, Cyber and Security Agency said, “it increasingly looks like Putin has massively misjudged the situation. It’s clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people.”

Fleming said Putin over-estimated the abilities of the Russian military to secure a quick victory. 

“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,” he said without specifying when or where this took place.

“Even though we believe Putin’s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth, what’s going on and the extent of these misjudgments must be crystal clear to the regime,” he said.

Fleming also said the National Cyber Security Center has seen “sustained intent from Russia to disrupt Ukrainian government and military systems” and has seen indicators suggesting Russia’s cyber actors are looking for targets in countries that oppose the Kremlin’s actions.

He also 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 military, providing implausible deniability for riskier operations,” Fleming said, adding that Wagner is now prepared to send large number of personnel into Ukraine to fight on the Russian side. 

“They are looking at relocating forces from other conflicts and recruiting new fighters to bolster numbers,” he said, “These soldiers are likely to be used as cannon fodder to try to limit Russian military losses.”

On the role of China, Fleming said there are risks for Russia and China associated with the two countries aligning too closely on the Ukraine conflict.

“Russia understands that long term, China will become increasingly strong militarily and economically. Some of their interests conflict; Russia could be squeezed out of the equation,” he said.

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