The counter-offensive has exposed Russia’s armed forces, raising questions about the future security of President Putin’s position

As the Ukrainian forces recapture more territory, Henry Wilkinson, chief intelligence officer at security intelligence firm Dragonfly, says that the counter-offensive has exposed Russia’s armed forces, whilst raising questions about the future security of President Putin’s position: 

It is now pretty clear that Russia is no longer able to sustain adequate capabilities to defend and hold the length of the current frontline.

”Putin’s options to recover momentum are narrowing fast and are extremely limited. Russian forces increasingly seem in disarray and surprised by the Ukrainian counter-offensive. 

“Ukraine has many reasons for wanting to push as hard and fast as possible and press its advantage. It has Russia on the back foot and the speed of its advance would suggest it has sustained both surprise and initiative, at least in Kharkiv.

”The critical question is how long and how far can Ukrainian forces sustain the counter-offensive and drive Russian forces back before winter conditions make rapid advances more challenging. 

”We are urgently assessing the likelihood of a rapid collapse of Russian forces, and what this may mean in terms of how Putin responds.”

Public criticism may be surfacing in Russia

“Putin appears to be facing highly unusual public criticism over the war, including from ultra-nationalists who usually propagate his worldview,” continues Wilkinson.

Rumours are swirling of disagreement between Russia’s generals and Putin and even of unusual security deployments and incidents in Moscow. 

Much of this is unverified, but there is clearly an acute sense of unease in Moscow over sudden unanticipated and sweeping losses in Ukraine. 

“There is split opinion over how secure Putin’s position now is and whether the country or the elite will at some point turn against him,” says Wilkinson.

“At this point, it seems unlikely but there are clearly going to be difficult days and weeks ahead, particularly if Russia continues to lose occupied territory at the pace it has recently.

”In our view, the loss of Crimea would signal real danger for Putin’s position of power, although that scenario occurring before the end of the year currently looks improbable. 

“There can be little doubt that Putin has attached immense personal political capital to the war, and the loss of all territory annexed before 2022 at such great cost to the Russian state and economy would put his position in real jeopardy.

”Should this equate to Putin’s departure from office, what would follow is not looking likely at this point to be any more democratic.”