Increasingly desperate Russian leaders are running out of ideas: UK statement to the OSCE

Thank you, Madam Chair. In the early hours of 28 April, Russia launched the first major wave of cruise missile strikes against Ukraine since early March 2023. Assessments indicate that these attacks were unlikely to have been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and that instead it is a realistic possibility that Russia was attempting to intercept Ukrainian reserve units and military supplies recently provided to Ukraine. Although Ukraine shot down most of the missiles, at least 25 innocent civilians were killed.

Madam Chair, Russia continues to operate an inefficient targeting process and prioritises perceived military necessity over preventing collateral damage, including civilian deaths. These attacks are another terrible example of this.

In a further demonstration of Russia’s increasingly reckless military decision-making, satellite imagery has shown newly established fighting positions on the roofs of several of the six reactor buildings at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). This is the first indication of the actual reactor buildings being integrated in Russia’s tactical defences of the ZNPP; a move that highly likely increases the chances of damage to ZNPP safety systems if fighting takes place around the plant.

As Russia’s ill-conceived invasion continues to falter, logistical issues remain at the heart of Russia’s struggling campaign in Ukraine. Whilst Russia continues to give the highest priority to mobilising its defence industry, it is still failing to meet demands for its war. Russia quite simply does not have enough munitions to achieve success on the offensive, with the paucity of ammunition driving increasingly open internal divisions, most notably between Russia’s Ministry of Defence and the Wagner Group.

Russia is also seemingly struggling to maintain discipline of its army. Since Autumn 2022, there have been increasingly draconian initiatives to improve discipline in the force, especially since Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov assumed command of the operation in January 2023. In recent months, Russian commanders have reportedly started punishing breaches in discipline by detaining the offending troops in ‘Zindans’ which are improvised cells consisting of holes in the ground covered with a metal grille. Multiple recent reports from Russian personnel give similar accounts of being placed in Zindans for misdemeanours including drunkenness and attempting to terminate their contracts.

Madam Chair, more widely, we have also seen that Russia’s brutal and illegal full-scale invasion of Ukraine has had dramatically disproportionate effects on communities across Russia’s regions. In many of Russia’s Eastern regions, deaths, as a percentage of population, are reportedly over 30 times higher than in Moscow. In some areas, this is acutely felt among ethnic minorities. In Astrakhan, approximately 75% of casualties come from the minority Kazakh and Tatar communities. In contrast, the richest cities of Moscow and St Petersburg have been relatively unscathed. This is especially true for the families of the country’s elite including Putin’s senior officials. It is a telling indictment; thousands of ordinary Russian people are being sent to their deaths whilst Putin insulates the elite and those better off in Russian society from the true horrors and failures of his appalling war of choice.

Madam Chair, this is a devastating war of Russian incompetence which has brought death and destruction to Ukraine and horrendous losses to the Russian people. Since the beginning of the invasion it has been clear this has not been a display of great Russian military might. Instead, Russian military commanders have delivered a poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly led force which needed to be supplemented by mercenaries and convicts almost immediately. Morale is low, supplies are low, and increasingly desperate Russian decision makers are running out of ideas.

In contrast, Ukraine has turned the tide in this war, regaining territory and liberating thousands of Ukrainian people. Ukraine has done this thanks to the awe-inspiring bravery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the resilience of the Ukrainian people and overwhelming international support. Together, with our Allies and partners, we are ensuring that Ukraine will win. Giving Ukraine the support it needs to defend itself and push Russia out of Ukraine’s sovereign territory is the swiftest and only path to a just and lasting peace. Thank you.

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