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Putin warned next step in Ukraine invasion impossible as massive shortages cripple advance


Vladimir Putin has been warned the considerable manpower shortages Russia is grappling with would make it impossible for him to deliver on his next objective in Ukraine.

Moscow has been tipped to renew its efforts to take Kharkiv, the second-biggest city in Ukraine after the Russian Army started to pursue a two-pronged approach to attack the region on Friday.

Putin’s troops launched a first attack just north of the city and another further east in Vovchansk – a sign Russia is going to exploit to the maximum delays in the delivery of newly approved aid from the US and Germany.

Despite the “significant tactical gains” Moscow secured in recent weeks, the Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) noted Putin is unlikely to make any progress towards Kharkiv as he lacks the troops he needs to secure control.

Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate estimates Moscow to have around 35,000 men stationed at the border of the Kharkiv region. But the Russian opposition earlier this year reported the Kremlin believes it would need approximately 300,000 troops to encircle Kharkiv.

The think tank said: “Russian forces are likely conducting the initial phase of an offensive operation north of Kharkiv City that has limited operational objectives but is meant to achieve the strategic effect of drawing Ukrainian manpower and material from other critical sectors of the front in eastern Ukraine…

“ISW continues to assess that Russian forces will likely struggle to seize Kharkiv City should they aim to do so.

“A Russian effort to seize Kharkhiv City would require long drives across open terrain on a scale that Russian forces have not conducted since the start of the full-scale invasion.”

The think tank added: “The Russian Northern Grouping of Forces likely also lacks the quantity of personnel required to conduct an operation as ambitious as the seizure of Kharkiv City successfully.

“Russian opposition outlet Verstka reported in March 2024, citing a Kremlin source, that the Russian military assesses that it needs 300,000 additional personnel (roughly 60 percent of the approximately 510,000 personnel Russian forces currently have in Ukraine) in order to launch an operation to encircle Kharkiv City…

“Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Deputy Chief Major General Vadym Skibitskyi stated on May 2 that Russian forces have currently concentrated roughly 35,000 personnel in the international border area and plan to concentrate a total of 50,000 to 70,000 personnel in this area.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine’s military had anticipated this latest attack and had calibrated its response.

“Now there is a fierce battle in this direction,” Zelensky was quoted as saying by Ukraine’s public broadcaster Suspilne.

Though Russia likely couldn’t capture Kharkiv without a massive buildup of troops and armour, it could compel Ukraine to send more troops to the region, leaving other areas of the country more vulnerable.

Forcing Ukrainian authorities to evacuate civilians will also likely cause disruptions and divert resources.

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