Vladimir Putin faces stiffer opposition than expected – inside and outside Ukraine

Western intelligence officials repeatedly informed over the weekend that Russian forces had encountered “stronger than expected” resistance from an undermanned and outgunned Ukrainian army.
So far, Russia has failed to take key cities across Ukraine, including the capital Kiev. On Sunday, Ukrainian forces managed to repel a Russian advance on a strategic airfield near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which is under near-constant attack.
“They have problems,” a NATO official said of Russian forces, pointing to the latest intelligence from the alliance. “They’re running out of diesel, they’re moving way too slowly and obviously morale is an issue.”
But a senior US defense official told reporters on Sunday that Russia had used only two-thirds of the total combat power applied to the mission, leaving a significant amount of forces available to continue the offensive.
And on Monday, a mile-long convoy of Russian military vehicles was hurtling towards the Ukrainian capital, while intelligence in Kiev also suggests that Belarus is ready to join the Russian invasion, according to a Ukrainian official.
Representatives of Ukraine and Russia were meeting on the Belarusian border on Monday. During these talks, Ukraine will insist on an “immediate ceasefire” and the withdrawal of Russian troops – although, realistically, no one expects this to happen.

Putin, it seems, not only misjudged Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, but also how hard the international community would take on Russia in the event of an invasion.

For years, the Russian president received little repression from the West for his illegal annexation of Ukrainian Crimea, his brutal support for the Syrian regime and his acts of aggression in other countries.

Despite all their strong words of condemnation of Putin and his regime, Western countries have still bought gas from Russia, offered safe haven to Russian oligarchs, and maintained relatively normal diplomatic relations with Moscow.

But this time around – despite some early struggles that saw Western nations accused of not hitting Russia hard enough – Putin faced an unusually united Western alliance.

Russia faces financial collapse as sanctions hit its economy

From unprecedented sanctions already hurting Russia’s economy to international sport slowly turning against Moscow, Russia’s international pariah status is growing more acute by the hour.

The economic pain will only get worse over time. The ruble lost about 20% of its value against the dollar on Monday afternoon, and Russia’s central bank raised interest rates from 9.5% to 20%, a move that will affect Russian citizens in their pockets.,

These same citizens may soon wonder why Putin is risking so much for a war that did not need to be fought.

Of course, things are very fluid on the pitch and could change very quickly.

There is little hope that Monday’s talks will result in a de-escalation, and no one expects this war to end in the immediate future, either by force or by agreement. But it is likely that Putin, having made it this far, will launch more on Ukraine in the coming days.

However, as the invasion enters its second week, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Putin’s best-laid plans have met stiffer resistance than he – and many of his opponents – ever had. conceived.


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