It is russia, not Ukraine, that has reason to fret. Its first defensive line in the all-important southern axis in the Zaporizhzhia oblast has already been pierced in places, meaning that the operation to sever the land connections between russia and Crimea may yet be achieved before winter sets in. This was stated by the Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Lieutenant-General Kyrylo Budanov, in an interview with The Economist.
“Contrary to what the russian federation declares, it has absolutely no strategic reserve”, - he says. Russia’s 25th Combined Arms Army, now being prematurely deployed in the eastern front around Lyman and Kupiansk, has only 80% of the manpower and 55% of the equipment it was supposed to have.
Amid reports that russia is poised to step up its ongoing mobilisation drive, Budanov says that headcount is the only obvious advantage that russia still retains over Ukraine. “Human resources in russia are, relatively speaking, unlimited. The quality is low, but the quantity is sufficient”.
As far as other components of the war effort are concerned, russian resources are being exhausted, and a reckoning is coming.
The spy chief says he is working on a limited deterrence and retaliation pose to counter russia’s expected winter campaign of missile and drone strikes on infrastructure. “Let them start. They will also receive an answer”.
But he does not expect the enemy ever to give up out of choice. War has been a constant for russia throughout its history, he says. There can be no discussion of a ceasefire or a peace without Ukraine’s military establishing its own facts on the ground.
“We understand we will not end the war with a victory parade in moscow. But neither should moscow ever hope to hold one in Kyiv”, - Budanov notes.