Vladimir Putin has fired his top generals and is “furious” at the FSB after failed intelligence and poor strategy led to his troops suffering a series of embarrassing defeats in the early days of the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Security Council chief Oleksiy Danilov said “about eight” Russian commanders have been fired since the start of the conflict, as Moscow tries to change its strategy after the attempted “shock and awe” blitz failed.
Putin is also said to be furious with commanders of the FSB security service — which he used to run — for giving him information that suggested Ukraine was weak, riddled with neo-Nazi groups, and would easily give up if attacked.
Vladimir Putin has fired eight generals and is said to be furious with his FSB secret service over the failures during the early fighting in Ukraine (file image)
Philip Ingram, a security expert and former senior British intelligence officer, told The Times that Putin is clearly “very angry” and blaming his intelligence services.
“He blames them for giving him the advice that led to bad decision-making in Ukraine,” he said.
That poor decision-making has resulted in Russia taking far more casualties than it expected in its attack, which has now been going on for two weeks.
It seems that Moscow had expected little resistance when it sent light troops, supported by air strikes, to capture key targets during the opening days, but faced punitive counter-attacks.
Reliable figures are hard to come by, but Ukraine thinks Russia has lost up to 12,000 men in a fortnight. European intelligence estimates it lower – between 6,000 and 9,000 – and the US even lower, at a maximum of 3,000.
Which is also true, it is almost certainly more than Putin expected when he launched the attack in hopes that the fighting would be over in a few days.
“We have a clear understanding of the enemy’s plans now,” Danilov said on Ukrainian state television today.
“They’ve changed them a bit since the beginning of the war, which they wanted to win and march in 2-3 days” [into Kyiv]. It hasn’t happened and never will.
Russia continues to suffer heavy losses on the battlefield in Ukraine (pictured, a vehicle destroyed yesterday) after failing to anticipate the level of resistance
A Russian tank lies abandoned after being badly damaged in an artillery ambush on the outskirts of Kiev believed to have taken place yesterday
“They changed their leadership. They had about 8 generals removed from their posts for failing to complete the task. Now new ones have been appointed.
“We understand very well what is happening in the Russian Federation. Besides, I can say they are desperate.’
It is not clear exactly why the Russian intelligence received in Ukraine prior to the operation was so poor.
Andrei Soldatov, who has been monitoring the Russian secret service for two decades, told The Times that one possibility is that the organization is simply not fit for purpose.
Most FSB agents are hired as legacy recruits based on their parents or grandparents who are agents, he said, and are removed from mainstream schools to be trained in-house.
This is in contrast to Western security agencies, which tend to recruit elite universities or colleges to ensure they get ‘the cream of the crop’.
Alternatively, he said, the organization was collecting good information but was simply too afraid to tell Putin the truth, instead manipulating their reports to appease him.
“The problem is that it’s too risky for superiors to tell Putin what he doesn’t want to hear, so they adjust their information,” he said.
“The tailoring probably takes place somewhere between the rank of Colonel and General in the FSB.”
Ukrainian soldiers loot ammunition from a destroyed Russian supply convoy, with commanders saying they plan to use Russia’s own weapons against it
The new analysis came after observers said the Russian military — which tried to make rapid advances on key targets in the early days of the conflict — is changing tactics in “medieval” siege wars that it has used in other conflicts, such as Syria.
Ukraine’s commanders say Russia’s advance has been “significantly slowed down” in recent days as the armed forces suffered losses, combined with a tactical switch to surrounding towns and bombing of towns into submission.
Mariupol, to the south, has been surrounded for days and under heavy shelling. A maternity hospital in the city was bombed on Wednesday, killing three people, including a six-year-old girl and wounding 17.
Kharkiv and Sumy, in the east, were also shelled overnight, killing seven people – including three children – as Russian forces attempted to surround them.
Putin’s forces are also trying to penetrate the suburbs of the capital Kiev with two attacks on the city Wednesday, both of which failed.
One, via Brovary to the east, was ambushed by artillery and UAV attacks after being spotted along a main road – with intercepted radio calls suggesting a regimental commander had been killed.
Another, via Irpin to the west, saw fighting break out overnight – but Kiev said a counter-attack was underway on Thursday and fighting was going on into the early hours.