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Russia to ‘run out of steam’ soon in Ukraine: U.K. intelligence chief

Richard Moore, the chief of MI6, also described Russia’s invasion as an ‘epic fail’

Russian soldiers near an apartment building damaged during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine, on July 12. This photo was taken during a trip organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense. (AP)

ASPEN, Colo. — The chief of Britain’s intelligence service said that Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine was likely to “run out of steam” in the coming weeks, amid shortages of material and manpower, as Moscow’s invasion is about to enter its sixth month.

“They will have to pause in some way,” Richard Moore, the chief of MI6, said in an interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto at the Aspen Security Forum — rare public remarks by the serving head of British intelligence. Russian forces had likely lost around 15,000 troops, he said, calling the number a “conservative estimate.” That’s roughly the number of casualties Russia’s military suffered over the course of 10 years during its war in Afghanistan, Moore noted.

A pause by Russian forces would “give the Ukrainians the opportunity to strike back,” Moore said Thursday. He said that the morale of Ukrainian forces remains high and the military is receiving powerful weapons from the West. Moore urged the flow of weapons to continue so that Ukraine could either prevail in the war or be in a stronger position to negotiate with Russia.

He also praised the level of Western solidarity since the Russian invasion. “NATO has been proved extraordinarily united in the face of this,” said Moore, noting that Sweden had abandoned 200 years of military nonalignment to seek membership of the alliance, along with Finland.

Ukrainian soldiers fired M-777 howitzers in the Donbas region on July 21, which were produced and supplied by the U.S. during a media trip. (Video: Reuters)

Moore described Russia’s invasion as an “epic fail” that hadn’t accounted for the stiff resistance the invading forces would face. “They clearly completely misunderstood Ukrainian nationalism. They completely underrated the degree of resistance the Russian military would face.”

Russian officials also didn’t accurately convey to President Vladimir Putin the challenges of the invasion and the costs to Russia, Moore said. In Putin’s government “it doesn’t pay to speak truth to power.”

In the lead-up to the invasion and in the months that have followed, there has been widespread speculation that Putin is sick, possibly with cancer, and he has been portrayed as more eccentric and irrational. However, Moore dismissed rumors that the Russian president is ill, saying “there is no evidence that Putin is suffering from serious ill health.”

His comments echoed CIA Director William J. Burns, who quipped earlier this week that “as far as we can tell, he’s entirely too healthy.”

The United States is also considering sending more advanced weapons to Ukraine, amid Kyiv’s fears that Russian forces could get further entrenched if the war drags on into winter. “After winter, when the Russians will have more time to dig in, it will certainly be more difficult,” the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said Tuesday.

Those weapons could include warplanes, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, said Wednesday.