Putin’s spring offensive in Ukraine is in danger of ‘bloody failure’, ex-British army chief Lord Dannatt says

Ukrainian soldiers fire a mortar at Russian troops on the frontline near the Donetsk town of Vuhledar (REUTERS)

Ukrainian soldiers fire a mortar at Russian troops on the frontline near the Donetsk town of Vuhledar (REUTERS)

A new offensive by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine is likely to “fail bloodily” within weeks, putting his army’s morale at risk of cracking and defeat, the ex-head of the British army said on Thursday.

Lord Dannatt believes Ukrainian forces, supplied with heavy weapons from the West, will be ready to launch a counter-offensive as Putin’s forces “recover” from battlefield setbacks.

British Challenger II tanks and Leopard 2s supplied by other European countries can be delivered in time for Ukraine to use them to seize the hinterland.

Lord Dannatt told Talk TV: “We will see another Russian offensive in the coming weeks and months, probably as the winter eases in Ukraine.

“With the equipment already provided to the Ukrainians and their own determination, that Russian offensive is likely to fail, and probably fail in a rather bloody way.

“That is then the time for the Ukrainians to mount a counter-offensive, to strike while the Russians are, in a sense, reeling from their own impending defeat.”

He added: “They will have to go with what they have.

“It sounds like we heard yesterday that British tanks will be available. Let’s hope that the Leopard IIs are also available to combine with the existing tanks, armored infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled artillery that the Ukrainians have or will receive to mount an effective counter-offensive in the spring.

He stressed: “If they can do that with a sound operational plan, with their characteristic determination and the weapons and ammunition we have for them, there is every chance that the very fragile morale of the Russian army will burst.

“When an army’s morale bursts, it equates to losing.”

The US estimates that some 180,000 Russian soldiers have already been killed or wounded in Putin’s war he launched last February.

The Ukrainian armed forces are believed to have suffered similarly high casualty rates, with more than 40,000 civilians also reportedly killed, often in indiscriminate Russian shelling or rocket attacks.

Britain now plans to supply long-range missiles to Kiev to push back the Russian army and is looking into supplying one of its fighter jets, although military experts say F-16s from other European countries, such as Poland or the Netherlands, may be more suitable. are.

Volodymyr Zelensky visited London on Wednesday, where he begged Britain and other allies to send fighter jets, and later watched Ukrainian troops being trained in Dorset.

Ukrainian tank crews are being trained in the UK in the use of Challenger II tanks as soon as possible, 14 of which will be sent to battle.

Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky at a press conference at a military base in Dorset on Wednesday (PA)

Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky at a press conference at a military base in Dorset on Wednesday (PA)

Captain Sam Upward, leader of tank training for the UK’s Ukrainian Armed Forces, told LBC Radio: “They’re absolutely obsessed with getting on the platform and learning everything they can, and milking all the knowledge out of our instructors.”

Pressured by their determination to return to Ukraine to fight, he added: “They are absolutely obsessed with that and working long hours.

“They just want to get these things back and defend their homeland.”

On a visit to Cornwall on Thursday, Rishi Sunak said: “I had very good discussions yesterday with President Zelensky about our ability to provide long-range missiles that they currently do not have, which will again make a big difference in the fight against Russian aggression.

“And of course we are talking about further support, possibly also with aircraft. The important first step of that journey is to ensure that we train Ukrainian pilots to use this highly advanced equipment.

“And we announced yesterday that we will again be the first country to train Ukrainian pilots on NATO standard aircraft.

“That is a really positive step forward and we will continue to support Ukraine because we want to see them triumph.”

Downing Street indicated that Britain will train Ukrainian pilots on fighter jets the UK has, while also instructing them on NATO tactics.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Obviously we can train them on aircraft that the UK has. What we can also do at the same time is instruct trainees on tactics and procedures used by all NATO countries.”

Asked about the time frame of the training, the official added: “What we are doing is exploring how quickly this can be done, especially given that some Ukrainian pilots have years, albeit in Soviet-era jets that are very different from ours.”

The UK will work with the Armed Forces of Ukraine to understand the capabilities of their pilots to try to “adapt our training and get pilots up to full flight level as soon as possible”.

No10 also stressed that the UK is monitoring the potential risk of escalation as it considers sending fighter jets to Ukraine.

Asked about some Western allies’ concerns that jet aircraft supplies could drag NATO into the conflict, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “Firstly, we have not yet made a decision on the UK’s supply of jet aircraft, we are currently working out.

“The UK is in the process of supplying Challenger tanks and we have also supplied longer range capabilities.

“We make these decisions carefully and we do it deliberately. We are aware of possible escalating risks.

“But all along we have been confident that the approach we are taking is the best and fastest way to help Ukraine end this war, which is obviously in everyone’s interest. And it is Russia that continues to take escalating measures with their bombing of civilians and continues their illegal war in Ukraine.”

Asked about the Kremlin’s warning that sending fighter jets would provoke an unauthorized military response, the official reiterated that “it remains Russia that escalates”.

The Kremlin said it would be the Ukrainians who would suffer if Britain or other Western countries supplied fighter jets to Kiev, and said Moscow would continue its military campaign in Ukraine regardless of what weapons the West sent.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “This is nothing more than the growing involvement of the United Kingdom, Germany and France in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.”

“The boundary between indirect and direct involvement is gradually becoming blurred. One can only express regret in this regard and say that such actions… lead to an escalation of tension, prolong the conflict and make the conflict more and more painful for Ukraine,” he added.

Leave a Comment