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Spy Chief: Russia’s strength on front line falters, but Ukraine needs more Western aid

Ukraine hopes to withstand Russia’s assault this year before launching a counterattack against a weakened opponent in 2025, says the military intelligence chief.
Ukraine’s Intelligence Chief Kyrylo Budanov. Credit: Serhii Korovayny for the WSJ
Spy Chief: Russia’s strength on front line falters, but Ukraine needs more Western aid

Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Chief Kyrylo Budanov said in an interview for the WSJ that Russia is facing significant challenges in continuing its invasion of Ukraine as the war approaches its third year.

He said that while the situation is “tough” for Ukraine’s outnumbered forces with the withdrawal from Avdiivka underway, “Russia also has problems.”

On the evening of 17 February, Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi announced the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Avdiivka after holding the strong position since the Russian-renewed assault on the city in October 2023.

Kyrylo Budanov said that Russia’s professional army was “largely destroyed” in the first year of the invasion. As a result, Russia is now sending untrained conscripts into “suicidal assaults.” Budanov also claims Russia is using more artillery shells than it can produce and while it fielded hundreds of tanks last year, most were old models taken from storage. He adds that missile attacks on Ukrainian cities have declined in recent weeks due to diminishing Russian supplies.

Budanov argues that “they don’t have the strength” for Russia to achieve its main goal of capturing all of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts this year.

Western officials and analysts see Budanov’s reading as the optimal scenario for Ukraine this year.

“If Ukraine can fight a smart defensive battle, wearing down Russian strength while rebuilding its own forces, the thinking goes, it could launch another counteroffensive against a weakened opponent in 2025.”

However, Budanov said one “wild card” is whether Ukraine will receive additional US military support, which has been blocked by Republicans in Congress.

The United States has been the biggest military donor for Ukraine to fight against Russia. The Senate recently advanced a foreign aid bill with $60 billion in support for Ukraine. However, the Republican-led House of Representatives has already expressed staunch opposition to the legislation in its current form, blocking the bill and demanding that any further support be tied to sweeping reforms of US immigration policy. Democrats have stated that this is non-negotiable.

The decision on the bill has been postponed, as US congress members have scheduled to leave Washington, DC, on 14 December for a three-week holiday break.

Budanov asks, “Will they be prepared to provide us with supplies for the full year while we prepare? It’s an interesting question.”

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