Russia’s military is likely to start an operational pause in the coming weeks after making only incremental progress recently on the battlefield, the chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service said on July 21.
Richard Moore, head of the service known as MI6, told the Aspen Security Forum in the U.S. state of Colorado that the progress that Russian forces have made in Ukraine in recent months is relatively small.
“We are talking about a small number of miles of advance. When they take a town, there is nothing left. It is obliterated,” he said.
He added that MI6 assesses that the Russians will increasingly find it difficult to supply manpower over the next few weeks.
“I think they are about to run out of steam,” he said.
The operational pause will give Ukrainian forces, whose morale he said is still high, opportunities to strike back with the “increasing amounts of good weaponry” they have received.
Moore said the war “is obviously not over” and with winter coming and the pressure on gas supplies, “we are in for a tough time.”
But it is important that the Ukrainian forces demonstrate their ability to strike back and it is important that Europe continues to back Ukraine militarily.
Moore also provided an estimate on the number of Russians killed in the war thus far — 15,000. He said that’s “probably a conservative estimate” and marked a “very bloody nose” for President Vladimir Putin, who expected a quick victory.
He noted that it is about the same number that Russia lost in 10 years in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
“And these are not middle-class kids from St. Petersburg or Moscow,” he said. “These are poor kids from rural parts of Russia. They’re from blue-collar towns in Siberia. They are disproportionately from ethnic minorities. These are his cannon fodder.”
CIA Director William Burns, speaking a day earlier at the same conference, said that U.S. intelligence estimated Russian losses “in the vicinity of 15,000 killed and maybe three times that wounded.”
The head of Britain’s armed forces said on July 17 in an interview with the BBC that the number of Russians killed and wounded in Ukraine was about 50,000.
Russia last updated the number of war dead in March, saying 1,351 troops had died.