Ian Stubbs (UK delegation to the OSCE) says Russia has attempted to distract from failures on the battlefield with a campaign of lies, threats and propaganda.
Thank you, Mr Chair. At the Ministerial Council last week, Russia’s Ambassador delivered familiar false narratives about confrontation. I would like to again highlight the irony of this coming from a country which has invaded Georgia in 2008, illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and then launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February this year.
Since that fateful day, the Kremlin and our Russian colleagues in this room have attempted to distract from failures on the battlefield with a campaign of lies, threats and propaganda. They have concocted increasingly ridiculous false claims and made allegations of an epic scale which do not stand up to the scantest of scrutiny. But no amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, nor can it hide the appalling litany of atrocities and devastation left behind in the areas from which Russian forces have retreated.
Against the backdrop of this sustained onslaught of disinformation, it is perhaps timely to consider what the last nine months has demonstrated: that Putin made a grave miscalculation when he chose to invade a sovereign neighbour.
On land, the Russian Battalion Tactical Group (BTG) concept, a major part of Russia’s military doctrine for over 10 years has proved a failure. Poor logistics, agility, training, equipment, maintenance, discipline and leadership have all contributed to abject failure. Over the last three months, Russian forces in Ukraine have largely stopped deploying the BTG concept.
In the air, Russia has failed to achieve air superiority. In recent months, the number of sorties conducted by Russian tactical combat aircraft over Ukraine has reduced significantly. Russian aircraft now probably conduct tens of missions per day in contrast to a high of up to 300 per day in March 2022. It has now lost over 60 fixed wing aircraft in the war.
At sea, Russia’s failure to conduct effective force protection has left its Black Sea Fleet dangerously exposed with devastating consequences. The vulnerability of its ships and submarines is evident from their significantly reduced operational footprint.
In response to his military failures, Putin has sought to punish the Ukrainian people. He and his military leadership’s attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure aim to spread terror and deprive families of shelter, light, and heat as we enter winter. They are particularly cruel acts of vengeance, resulting in widespread humanitarian suffering across Ukraine. However, the effectiveness of Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s electricity distribution grid as a strategy has likely been blunted given that Russia has already expended a large proportion of its suitable missiles against tactical targets.
Putin and his military leaders have also doubled-down on their failed strategy of blunt-edged attritional warfare. He and his Generals have sent thousands of Russia’s own citizens to their deaths, poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly led. More continue to be sent to the battlefield to provide numbers and mass in place of fighters and effective leadership.
But the failures of Putin’s horrendous adventurism are becoming increasingly apparent to the Russian people. Recent polling suggests that Russian public support for the so-called “Special Military Operation” is falling significantly. Data which was reportedly collected by Russia’s Federal Protective Service indicated that 55 percent of Russians favour peace talks with Ukraine, with only 25 percent claiming to support continuing the war. This contrasts with polling in April 2022 where around 80 percent of Russians claimed to support the conflict.
The persistent and institutional poor decision making by the Kremlin is having a terrible impact on the Russian people – more needless deaths; more grieving families; more defeats; more demoralised troops; more discontent; and more isolation. Putin is creating a legacy which millions of young Russians did not choose and did not vote for, but will be forced to bear the cost of for years to come.
Mr Chair, yesterday marked Ukrainian Armed Forces Day. For the brave men and women of the Armed Forces of Ukraine it was also the 285th day they have been fighting to defend and protect their homeland from a brutal and barbaric invader. We do not underestimate the continuing threat posed by the Russian Federation but, in time, there will be cause for Ukraine to celebrate. Ukraine will continue to demonstrate their resolute courage, determination and enduring moral strength as they fight to liberate more of their homeland. Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence will be fully restored. The UK and the international community will remain steadfast in our support – we will stand by Ukraine for however long it takes.