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HomeNewsBBC Newsnight: Former NATO Commander ‘stunned’ at Russia’s ‘tactical incompetence’

BBC Newsnight: Former NATO Commander ‘stunned’ at Russia’s ‘tactical incompetence’


Speaking on BBC Newsnight, General John R Allen, former Commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said that it was hard to understand what’s going on in Putin’s mind. In a military update today, Moscow attempted to put a positive spin on its disastrous invasion saying that the first phase of its military campaign in Ukraine was over.

But the update, combined with the West’s claim that Russia has lost 20 out of the 120 battalions originally massed on Ukraine’s border, is the latest sign that Vladimir Putin has rolled back his ambitions and is on the run.

In another embarrassing blow to Putin, it was revealed today that a Russian brigade commander had died after being run down with a tank by his own troops.

Western officials believe Colonel Yuri Medvedev was brutally taken out by mutinous soldiers after their 37th Motor Rifle Brigade suffered huge losses.

Sharing his view, Mr Allen said: “It’s hard to say what’s in Vladimir Putin’s mind at the particular moment.

“They say war is an extension of politics by other means and Vladimir Putin clearly believed, at the beginning of the conflict, that he would be able to sweep aside the Ukrainian army, that Ukrainian people would not oppose the entrance of the Russian military into Ukraine, and the government would fall. He believed that.

“The strategic, operational and tactical incompetence of the Russian military has been stunning.

“What we are seeing now is that, while the conventional wisdom is that warfare is an extension of politics by other means, what we are seeing is that politics may well be an extension of warfare by another means.”

A NATO official estimated on Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine, and added that between 30,000 to 40,000 Russian soldiers are estimated to have been killed or wounded in total.

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Russia and Ukraine exchanged prisoners in the first swap of soldiers since Moscow invaded a month ago, Ukraine’s vice prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said the first “full-fledged exchange of prisoners of war took place” where 10 “captured occupiers” were exchanged for 10 Ukrainian service personnel.

In a recent update published to her official Telegram channel just before midnight local time, Ms Vereshchuk said the humanitarian hostages taken in Mangush had been released.

Ukraine accused Moscow of forcibly taking hundreds of thousands of civilians from shattered Ukrainian cities to Russia, where some may be used as “hostages” to pressure Kyiv to give up.

Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s ombudsperson, said 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, had been taken against their will.

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