Russian soldiers refuse to carry out orders, says Britain’s spy chief

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A resident walks in front of destroyed buildings in the north-eastern city of Trostianets. Ukraine forces recaptured the town, which is near the Russian border and one of the first towns to fall under Moscow's control - FADEL SENNA/AFP

A resident walks in front of destroyed buildings in the north-eastern city of Trostianets. Ukraine forces recaptured the town, which is near the Russian border and one of the first towns to fall under Moscow’s control – FADEL SENNA/AFP

Some Russian soldiers in Ukraine have refused to carry out orders, sabotaged their equipment and accidentally shot down one of their own aircraft, new intelligence has shown.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had “massively misjudged” the capabilities of his armed forces while underestimating Ukraine’s resistance and the West’s resolve, the head of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spy service said.

GCHQ chief Sir Jeremy Fleming said: “We believe Putin’s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth.”

He said there was evidence of low morale among Russian soldiers, who were poorly equipped.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that his forces are preparing for new Russian attacks in the east of the country as Moscow builds up its troops there after suffering setbacks near Kyiv.

Meanwhile, Sir Jeremy warned China not to become “too closely aligned” with Moscow as it continues to pursue its path of aggression against Ukraine.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

12:46 AM

China warned about being ‘too closely aligned’ with Kremlin

The head of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters spy service has warned China not to become “too closely aligned” with the Kremlin.

Speaking at the Australian National University in Canberra, Sir Jeremy Fleming said western allies were making “deeply secret intelligence” public to get ahead of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s information war, while also tackling cyber threats.

On China, he said the country’s long-term interests were not well served by an alliance with a leader that “wilfully and illegally” ignores the international “rules of the road”.

12:41 AM

Innocent Ukrainians and Russians pay for Putin’s ‘personal war’

Vladimir Putin’s advisers are scared to tell him the truth about the progress of his Ukraine invasion but the extent of the Russian leader’s “misjudgements” must be “crystal clear to the regime”, the head of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency said.

In a rare public address during a visit to Australia, Sir Jeremy Fleming said Putin had “massively misjudged the situation”.

“It’s clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people,” Sir Jeremy said.

“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.”

Sir Jeremy said it had become Putin’s personal war, “with the cost being paid by innocent people in Ukraine and increasingly, by ordinary Russians too”.

12:30 AM

Donetsk offensive operations intensifying

The leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, said offensive operations were intensifying.

“We are well aware that the longer it takes us to liberate our territory – those settlements that are now under control of Ukraine – the more victims and destruction there will be,” he said.

Donetsk includes the besieged port city of Mariupol, which has seen some of the war’s heaviest fighting and bombardment and where about 170,000 people are trapped with scarce food and water.

“We cook what we find among neighbours; a bit of cabbage, a bit more of potatoes, we’ve found tomato paste, some beetroot,” said former steel worker Viktor from Mariupol.

Metallurgist Viktor, 63, cooks food at the entrance to the basement of an apartment building in Mariupol - REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Metallurgist Viktor, 63, cooks food at the entrance to the basement of an apartment building in Mariupol – REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

They cook using a rudimentary barbecue and sleep in a basement, which he termed their “peaceful oasis”.

Russian forces have taken half of the strategic port city, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

12:24 AM

Zelensky: Ukraine preparing for new Russian offensive

Ukrainian forces are preparing for new Russian attacks in the east of the country as Moscow builds up its troops there after suffering setbacks near the capital Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.

Tough resistance has prevented Russia from capturing any major city, including Kyiv.

At peace talks this week in Istanbul, Russia said it would curtail operations near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv to build trust.

But Ukraine and its Western allies, including the US, dismissed Russia’s pledge as a ploy to stem its losses and prepare for other attacks.

Russia said its forces were regrouping to focus on “liberating” the breakaway eastern Donbas region.

In an early morning video address on Thursday, Mr Zelensky referred to Russian troop movements away from Kyiv and Chernihiv and said that was not a withdrawal but rather “the consequence of our defenders’ work”.

Mr Zelensky said Ukraine is seeing “a build-up of Russian forces for new strikes on the Donbas and we are preparing for that”.

11:41 PM

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