The MoD’s latest defence intelligence update released on Tuesday (May 10) said Russia’s invasion plan launched on February 24 was based on “the mistaken assumption that it would encounter limited resistance” and be able to seize control in Ukraine rapidly.
This “miscalculation” has led to heavy losses in both military equipment and personnel and a “reduction in Russia’s operational focus” as Moscow struggles to make gains on the ground.
The update from the MoD read: “Russia’s underestimation of Ukrainian resistance and its ‘best case scenario’ planning have led to demonstrable operational failings, preventing President Putin from announcing significant military success in Ukraine at the 09 May Victory Day parade.
“Russia’s invasion plan is highly likely to have been based on the mistaken assumption that it would encounter limited resistance and would be able to encircle and bypass population centres rapidly.
“This assumption led Russian forces to attempt to carry out the opening phase of the operation with a light, precise approach intended to achieve a rapid victory with minimal cost.
“This miscalculation led to unsustainable losses and a subsequent reduction in Russia’s operational focus.”
The update comes after President Putin marked Victory Day on Monday in Moscow’s Red Square.
Western governments claimed last month that the Russian leader was pressuring generals to win the war in Ukraine before May 9 so he could use the occasion to announce a victory.
There were also concerns that, as Russian troops struggle to make gains on the battlefield, Putin could use the occasion to declare all-out war, which would entail the mass mobilisation of Russian citizens.
However, the Russian premier did neither, instead using his address to blame the West for the conflict in Ukraine and praise Moscow’s troops as “heroes” for fighting what he called the “Nazi” enemies their forefathers had fought in Stalingrad.
Speaking on Monday, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Putin and his inner circle of generals “are now mirroring the fascism and tyranny of 77 years ago, repeating the errors of the last century’s totalitarian regime” and showing the “same disregard for human life”.
He said: “For Putin, there can be no ‘Victory Day’, only dishonour and surely defeat in Ukraine.”
According to Western intelligence, the Russian leader believed he would be able to seize power quickly in Ukraine and overthrow President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government with ease.
However, Moscow’s forces met heavy resistance from Ukrainian forces bolstered by military aid from Western countries.
Moscow’s troops were forced to withdraw from areas around the capital Kyiv last month after strong resistance from Ukraine’s military left them unable to make gains.
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Russia stepped up its assault on eastern Ukraine last month after Moscow’s forces withdrew from areas around the capital Kyiv in early April, revealing a trail of destruction in their wake, with hundreds of civilian bodies discovered buried in mass graves.
Moscow has concentrated its invasion on the Donbas, Ukraine’s old industrial heartland, including Luhansk and Donetsk which have been under heavy fire for weeks.
Thousands of civilians have been evacuated from the besieged city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian soldiers continue to hold out the Azovstal steel plant against Russian attacks.
Russian forces also launched attacks on the southern city of Odesa in recent days, with hypersonic missiles striking two hotels and a shopping mall on Monday.
Despite the escalation of attacks on Ukraine’s south and east, Russia is still reportedly struggling to make gains in the country.
In a defence intelligence update issued on May 8, the MoD said Moscow had deployed senior commanders onto the battlefield to support the floundering invasion but this had led to “disproportionately high losses” of Russian officers while failing to help Russia’s war effort.
The update read: “Difficulties in command and control, as well as faltering Russian performance on the front line, have drawn senior commanders onto the battlefield, likely to take personal leadership of operations.
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“Russian commanders rarely delegate operational authority to their subordinates, who in turn do not gain vital leadership experience.
“However, it is not clear that the presence of these commanders on the battlefield has led to a refined or altered operational concept. Flawed planning assumptions and failures in sustainment continue to undermine Russian progress.
“The forward deployment of commanders has exposed them to significant risk, leading to disproportionately high losses of Russian officers in this conflict. This has resulted in a force that is slow to respond to setbacks and unable to alter its approach on the battlefield.
“These issues are likely to endure given the relative lack of operational command experience of the officers promoted in place of those killed.”
As many as 12 Russian generals are thought to have been killed since the invasion began in February, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence.
Ukraine has claimed that 22,800 Russian soldiers have been killed, while the UK Government has put the death toll at 15,000.