Vladimir Putin is being ‘misled’ by Russian officials terrified to tell him how badly war is going, US says

Vladimir Putin is being “misled” by Russian officials over the dire status of the nation’s war efforts in Ukraine because they are terrified to tell him the truth, the US has claimed.

“We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military, which has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership,” Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director, told reporters during a press briefing.

“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions because his senior advisors are too afraid to tell him the truth,” she added.

European sources agreed with the assessment. One diplomat told Reuters: “Putin thought things were going better than they were. That’s the problem with surrounding yourself with ‘yes men’ or only sitting with them at the end of a very long table.”

An official added that Russian soldiers “were misled, badly trained and then arrived to find old Ukrainian women who looked like their grandmothers yelling at them to go home.”

Russian forces bombarded the outskirts of the capital Kyiv and the besieged city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine on Wednesday, a day after Russia promised to scale down military operations in both cities.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday that Russia’s efforts to focus on an offensive in the east of Ukraine, away from the capital, is “likely an admission that it is struggling to maintain more than one significant axis of advance”.

It added that some Russian units suffering heavy losses “have been forced to return to Belarus and Russia to reorganise and resupply… placing further pressure on Russia’s already strained logistics.”

The head of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency, Sir Jeremy Fleming, will allege in a speech on Thursday that Russian troops have been mistakenly shooting down their own aircraft.

“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 will say, in a speech trailed ahead of his visit to Australia.

“And even though we believe Putin’s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth, what’s going on and the extent of these misjudgments must be crystal clear to the regime.

“It all adds up to the strategic miscalculation that Western leaders warned Putin it would be. It’s become his personal war, with the cost being paid by innocent people in Ukraine and, increasingly, by ordinary Russians too.”

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