- Putin said that Russia faces an “extremely difficult” situation in occupied Ukrainian territories.
- It was a rare acknowledgement that Russia’s war in Ukraine has not gone according to plan.
- Meanwhile, Zelenskyy visited Ukrainian troops in a city Russia has tried and failed to capture for months.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said the situation in occupied Ukrainian territories is “extremely difficult,” a rare acknowledgement that the war has not gone according to plan for Russian forces.
“The situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions is extremely difficult,” Putin said in a video address to security workers, per Reuters. Putin was referencing four Ukrainian regions he illegally annexed in September, though Russia did not fully occupy those regions at the time. Russian forces have lost ground in these regions in the time since, and last month retreated from Kherson — the first major city Russia captured after its invasion began in late February.
Putin has generally painted a rosy picture of how the war is going, and in the early days of the conflict signed a law that effectively criminalized criticism of the Russian military. Russians who spread “fake news” about their country’s military could spend up to 15 years behind bars.
As Putin pointed to Russia’s difficulties in the war on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited troops on the frontline in Bakhmut, a city of roughly 70,000 in Donetsk. Russian forces have tried and failed to capture Bakhmut for months.
—Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) December 20, 2022
The war in Ukraine has been disastrous for the Russian military, which is estimated to have suffered up to 100,000 casualties — an astonishing statistic after less than a year of fighting. Moscow has been isolated both politically and economically over the conflict, with the US and its allies slapping crippling sanctions on Russia as a result of the unprovoked invasion.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the UK’s armed forces, last week said that “Russia is losing” in Ukraine. Radakin added that “it will only get worse for Russia,” pointing to “a critical shortage of artillery munitions.”
“Russian guns have now been firing for almost 300 days” and “the cupboard is bare,” Radakin said.