Putin advisers ‘too afraid to tell him the truth’ on Ukraine: US official

Russian President Vladimir Putin was misled by advisers who were too scared to tell him how poorly the war in Ukraine is going and how damaging Western sanctions have been, a US official said on Wednesday, citing declassified intelligence.

Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of its southern neighbor has been halted on most fronts by stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces who have recaptured territory even as civilians are trapped in besieged cities.

“We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military,” leading him to mistrust the military leadership, the US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Putin didn’t even know his military was using and losing conscripts in Ukraine, showing a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian president,” the official said.

The official did not provide the intelligence report, but said the information had been declassified.

The Kremlin made no immediate comment after the end of the working day in Moscow, and the Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Military analysts say Russia has reframed its war goals in Ukraine in a way that may make it easier for Putin to claim a face-saving victory despite a woeful campaign in which his army has suffered humiliating setbacks.

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

“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 advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth,” the official said.

Russia says it is carrying out a “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” its neighbor. Western countries say Moscow launched an unprovoked invasion.

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