Vladimir Putin's advisers 'too scared to tell him truth' – spy chief claims

There is now tension between Vladimir Putin and his senior defence officials, US and UK Intelligence say

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Vladimir Putin is being misled by advisers who are “too scared to tell him the truth” about the progress of the Ukraine invasion, according to Western officials.

British and White House intelligence have said the president has been kept in the dark about the performance of his troops and that he is also unaware of the severe damage to the Russian economy.

New assessments say the president now feels misled and that there is tension between himself and his senior defence officials.

Sir Jeremy Fleming, the head of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency, gave the update in a rare public address during a visit to Australia.

He said: “It’s clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin

“He underestimated the strength of the coalition his actions would galvanise. He under-played the economic consequences of the sanctions regime. He over-estimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid 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.

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

He added: “It’s become his personal war, with the cost being paid by innocent people in Ukraine and increasingly, by ordinary Russians too.”

White House spokesperson Kate Bedingfield said the US had information that Mr Putin "felt misled by the Russian military" and this had resulted in "persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership".

She said: "Putin's war has been a strategic blunder that has left Russia weaker over the long term and increasingly isolated on the world stage."

Jeremy Fleming, Director of GCHQ
Jeremy Fleming, Director of GCHQ

The comments come after Moscow claimed they are redeposing forces away from Kyiv and focusing on the country's eastern regions.

Western nations have been sceptical of the claimed de-escalation and warn it could be a precursor to further strikes across the country.

UK defence intelligence analysts said “significant” shelling and missile strikes have continued around the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, despite Russia’s indications it would cut back military activity in the area.

In an intelligence update, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) tweeted: “Despite Russian statements indicating an intended reduction of military activity around Chernihiv, significant Russian shelling and missile strikes have continued.

“Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units. Heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in coming days.

“Heavy fighting continues in Mariupol, a key objective of Russian forces, however Ukrainian forces remain in control of the centre of the city.”