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Ukraine ‘tipping point’ looms as Putin piles on pressure with 500,000 troops at border


Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin has reportedly massed 510,000 troops at the Ukrainian border (Image: GETTY)

Ukraine is rapidly approaching a “tipping point” its war with Russia as VladimirInstitute Putin continues to ramp up the pressure after massing an estimated 500,000 troops, a military expert has warned.

Meanwhile, one MP has admitted he and his colleagues were monitoring the situation with concern, warning the Russian President will turn his attention to other former eastern bloc countries if he emerges triumphant.

An analysis published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) yesterday and authored by Dr Jack Watling warned: “The Russian forces have now expanded to 510,000 troops. The outlook for Ukraine is bleak. Its allies must replenish stockpiles.”

And his colleague Sam Cranny-Evans, a Research Associate Fellow at the London-based think tank agreed, suggesting unless Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was provided with sufficient resources, he could find himself “unable to change the trajectory” of the bloody conflict.

Mr Cranny-Evans told Express.co.uk: “The context is that Russia turned to a war economy in 2022, that takes time to come to fruition and we are seeing that now.”

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Ukrainian servicemen of the 92nd Assault Brigade fire a BM-21 ‘Grad’ multiple rocket launcher (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Russian units had more ammunition, more precision strike weapons, and more vehicles than the Ukrainians, he pointed out.

By contrast Ukraine’s war economy “was essentially the West”, Mr Cranny-Evans pointed out.

He continued: “Its own industry was extensively and continuously targeted by Russia – a lot of the strikes on power plants were often linked to Ukraines defence industry, for example.

“Other facilities were hit and destroyed forcing relocations or new establishments.”

The suggestion of Russian victory is inevitable is a key theme of pro-Kremlin propagandists.

However, Mr Cranny-Evans warned: “It’s not necessarily divorced from reality.

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New Russian Defence Minister Andrei Belousov in the Kremlin (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“If Ukraine is not given the ammunition and systems necessary to resist the current pattern of Russian offensives, its situation will deteriorate to the point where the trajectory cannot be changed – then Europe will have to directly contend with Russia and invest heavily in its own forces.

Asked specifically about the staggering number of soldiers gathered on Ukraine’s eastern frontier, Mr Cranny-Evans said: “I wouldn’t say it’s a breakthrough, it’s a potential tipping point.

“Russia is pressuring the entire front, but the movements in Kharkiv are the latest iteration and have created dilemmas for Ukraine’s command. This will be amplified if Russia can open an additional offensive elsewhere.”

He explained: “This is a key principle to static warfare: pressure everywhere all at once, which forces an opponent to spread forces out rather than focus on any one area. The Russians don’t need to be particularly effective in Kharkiv, they just need to be successful enough that Ukraine can’t ignore them.”

By achieving this, Russian had changed the trajectory of the fighting, Mr Cranny-Evans stressed.

He concluded: “Either Ukraine is able to stop the offensive and drive them into static positions followed by a redistribution of forces and equipment to address other weak points, or it all becomes too much and Ukraines defence begins to deteriorate rapidly. It’s going to be a hard summer.”

Ukraine

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire in the Nemyshlyan district of Kharkiv (Image: Anadolu via Getty Images)

The senior Tory, who asked not to be named, offered a candid insight into how seriously he and others were taking the situation.

He explained: “It is daunting. With Russia, you’re dealing with a country that has essentially not changed its way of fighting since World War 2, and its way of fighting is a meat grinder.

“They have always had more men than everyone else and they simply chuck more and more men into the meat grinder with the hope of wearing everyone down, which is what they did from 1941 to 1945. It’s the way their armies still structured.”

Such an approach had huge drawbacks, including the lack of any proper command and control structure which enables a military to fight effectively.

Nevertheless, Putin – who this weekn replaced Defence Minister Sergei Shiogu with Andrei Belousov – was hoping to prevail by sheer weight of number, he said.

The MP continued: “I think to be honest, those who, you know, people who understand this will always know that we were in this for the long haul.

“I think this is one of those issues where there is cross-party resolve because I think we all understand the geopolitical necessity of stopping aggression now.

Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky waits to greet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“Because this is not just about Russia and Ukraine. It’s also about China. It’s about defending the rules based order. It’s about people understanding that you there has to be a line drawn in the sand.

“And if we draw make that line, sooner or later, we’ll be defending that principle somewhere else.”

Owen Matthews, whose book, Overlord: The Inside Story of Vladimir Putin’s War on Russia, was published last year, also acknowledged Russia’s relentless approach.

He explained: “They have mustered over half a million men.

“There is no breakthrough – but a slow, steady grind on.”

Putin today said the Kremlin was prepared to negotiate over the conflict in Ukraine in an interview with Chinese media on the eve of visit to partner Beijing that has backed Moscow in its full-scale invasion of February 24, 2022.

Putin was quoted by official Xinhua News Agency as saying: “We are open to a dialogue on Ukraine, but such negotiations must take into account the interests of all countries involved in the conflict, including ours.”

The Russian leader’s two-day trip starting Thursday comes as his country’s forces have pressed an offensive in the Kharkiv region which began last week in the most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began, forcing almost 8,000 people to flee their homes.

Putin has blamed the West for the failure of negotiations in the opening weeks of the war and praised China’s peace plan for Ukraine that would allow Moscow to cement its territorial gains.

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