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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Rachael Burford

Putin admits military situation in illegally annexed parts of Ukraine ‘extremely difficult’

Vladimir Putin has admitted the military situation in the illegally annexed parts of Ukraine is “extremely difficult”.

He made the comments on Security Services Day, a widely celebrated holiday, as he the ordered the Federal Security Services (FSB) to step up surveillance of Russian society and the country’s borders to combat the “emergence of new threats” from abroad and traitors at home.

Moscow moved to annex the four regions, which make up some 15 per cent of the country, in September and ordered the FSB to ensure the “safety” of people living there.

“The situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions is extremely difficult,” Putin said late on Monday.

The separation of the areas was condemned by Kyiv and its Western allies as illegal.

It comes amid fears that Moscow’s ally Belarus could join the war and open a new invasion front against Ukraine in the new year.

On Monday, Putin made his first visit to Belarus since 2019.

In light of the threat Kyiv has renewed calls for more weapons as Russian “kamikaze” drones continue to target Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said: “Weapons, shells, new defence capabilities...everything that will give us the ability to speed up the end to this war.”

He added that Russia has lost almost 99,000 soldiers in Ukraine.

“Soon there will be 100K of the occupiers’ casualties,” he said. “For what? No one in Moscow can answer this question. And they won’t.

“They wage war and waste people’s lives, other people’s, not of their loved ones, not their own lives, but the lives of others only because a group in the Kremlin can’t admit mistakes and is terribly afraid of reality. But reality speaks for itself.”

Russia has been targeting Ukraine’s power grid, causing blackouts amid sub-zero winter temperatures across the country.

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Tuesday said Putin was attempting to “deflect responsibility for military failure” and boost waning public support for the war .

During a visit to the Joint Headquarters of the Special Military Operation on December 16, Putin met with senior military officers including Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who was rumoured to have been sacked after a number of military blunders, Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu and Commander of the Russian Group of Forces in Ukraine General Sergey Surovikin.

In it’s morning briefing, the MoD said: “In this choreographed meeting Putin likely intended to demonstrate collective responsibility for the special military operation.

“This display likely aimed to deflect Putin’s responsibility for military failure, high fatality rates and increasing public dissatisfaction from mobilisation.

“The televised footage was probably designed to also dispel social media rumours of General Gerasimov’s dismissal.”

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