Is Vladimir Putin’s invasion crumbling? Tanks stuck in the mud and fighters weak in the air

Is Vladimir Putin’s invasion crumbling? Tanks stuck in the mud and fighters weak in the air. By Glen Keogh.

Every day brings footage of Russian fighter jets and helicopter gunships being blown out of the sky — as many as eight in 24 hours recently. Such losses seem to defy logic given the scale and apparent sophistication of Moscow’s forces.

Putin assumed he could achieve air supremacy on day one. A fortnight later, Ukraine’s S-300 ground-to-air missile system remains operational and effective.

Consequently, Russia’s aircraft are vulnerable to ground-to-air fire — not something they experienced while carpet-bombing cities in Syria. Experts also suggest Russia’s air force could be experiencing ammunition shortages after that campaign.

Russia’s reliance on artillery is problematic. Combining artillery and aircraft in the same battlespace requires cohesion, communication and most importantly practice. Yet Russia has not practised this. So we see aircraft in small numbers and only when there’s no ground fire. …

Defeat in Ukraine would be terminal for Russia as a military superpower and terminal for Putin personally. …

Is the convoy outside Kiev doomed? Or just setting up for an attack?

The convoy of 15,000 troops, tanks, missile batteries and armoured personnel carriers deployed from Belarus was supposed to encircle Kyiv and quickly pound its citizens into submission, forcing President Volodmyr Zelensky to surrender.

But it has never reached the capital and for several days has made no progress. This vast force is vulnerable to aerial attack. Yet besides strategic strikes on some sections, it has been left untouched. Why?

Few of the Russian assets pose an immediate threat – and Ukraine must be efficient with its use of pilots, aircraft and munitions. Also, due to spare parts shortages and resupply problems, the convoy is going nowhere. Better to bomb the bridges nearby further reducing the invading enemy’s mobility.

There’s a psychological ploy here too. As long as the column is there, it is Putin’s problem, a reminder of all that has gone wrong. Destruction on a major scale and the deaths of hundreds of soldiers could be painted as vindictive, providing propaganda for the Kremlin. It might also be counter-productive.

Ukrainians calculate that the more Russians that are stuck in the mud — with scant rations– the better. The hope is they will become discouraged and surrender.

Kremlin jitters?

Kremlin officials are ‘privately denouncing’ Vladimir Putin’s ‘clusterf**k’ invasion as US officials warned that the isolated Russian despot could lash out in anger at Ukraine’s fierce resistance by using small nuclear weapons on some of its cities.

Russian journalist Farida Rustamova, who was well-connected in government circles before fleeing the country as the Kremlin launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent, has claimed that officials in Moscow never believed that Putin would go to war.

They are now allegedly making ‘apocalyptic’ forecasts about the weeks and months ahead as fighting grinds on and punitive sanctions bite.

When asked how Russian politicians were reacting to the crisis, one source told Rustamova: ‘They’re carefully enunciating the word clusterf**k. No one is rejoicing. Many understand that this is a mistake, but in the course of doing their duty they come up with explanations in order to somehow come to terms with it.’ …

A pronounced cold snap will see temperatures drop to -10C overnight in the middle of the week around Kyiv and Kharkiv – down to -20C when wind chill is taken into account – with many Russian soldiers stuck outdoors in a 40-mile column of stalled vehicles near the Ukrainian capital. …

The Russian strongman has encountered a tidal wave of opprobrium for the deadly invasion, leaving him isolated like never before.

There are some very conflicting narratives about the course of the war.