The head of a British spy agency visiting Australia has said some Russian soldiers in Ukraine have refused to carry out orders and Vladimir Putin has seriously misjudged the conflict.

Speaking at the Australian National University in Canberra, Sir Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ, the UK’s intelligence listening centre, said: “It increasingly looks like Putin has massively misjudged the situation.

“It’s clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people”.

A Ukrainian man looks at a damaged Russian tank in the town of Trostsyanets, about 400km east of Kyiv. Western experts say Russia’s offensive has been plagued by major problems. (AP)

Sir Jeremy said Mr Putin had overestimated the abilities of the Russian military to secure a rapid victory.

“We’ve seen Russian soldiers – short of weapons and morale – refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft,” he said.

Ukrainian military sources claimed early on in the war, which began on February 24, that a Russian ship in the Black Sea destroyed an aircraft in “friendly fire”, though it was not confirmed by Russia.

It was unclear whether this was one of the incidents highlighted by Sir Jeremy.

Sir Jeremy also said Mr Putin was also hampered by the reluctance of senior Kremlin advisers to tell him the truth about Russia’s staggering military campaign.

Sir Jeremy said British intelligence experts have seen “sustained intent from Russia to disrupt Ukrainian government and military systems” and has seen indicators suggesting Russia’s cyber actors are looking for targets in countries that oppose the Kremlin’s actions.

He said it is “clear” that Russia is using mercenaries and foreign fighters to support its forces — including the Wagner group.

“The group works as a shadow branch of the Russian military, providing implausible deniability for riskier operations,” Sir Jeremy said, adding that Wagner is now prepared to send large number of personnel into Ukraine to fight on the Russian side.

“They are looking at relocating forces from other conflicts and recruiting new fighters to bolster numbers,” he said.

“These soldiers are likely to be used as cannon fodder to try to limit Russian military losses.”

Members of a Wagner mercenary unit, whose faces have been blurred, operating in the Syrian desert. (CNN)

On the position of China in the Ukraine conflict, Sir Jeremy said there are risks for Russia and China associated with the two countries aligning too closely.

“Russia understands that long term, China will become increasingly strong militarily and economically. Some of their interests conflict; Russia could be squeezed out of the equation,” he said.

Maria Pavlovych weeps as she remembers her 25-year-old soldier son, Roman Pavlovych, who was killed near the besieged city of Mariupol, in his bedroom, in Hordynia village, western Ukraine, Friday, March 25, 2022. The Pavlovych family knows a second front line in Russia's war runs through the farmland here in western Ukraine, far from the daily resistance against the invasion. It is an uphill battle for farmers to feed not only their country but the world.

Mother’s tears amid ongoing onslaught on Ukraine

– Reported with CNN

Source: 9News

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