Russia Can’t Hold Out for Another Year: Ukraine Spy Chief Kyrylo Budanov

Kyrylo Budanov (C), the chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine (GUR), attends a farewell ceremony for a killed Ukrainian soldier on March 10, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Budanov said he believes Russian forces are reaching the end of their capacity in occupied Ukraine. Yurii Stefanyak/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

The head of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence agency (GUR) has said that Russian troops will prove unable to continue their full-scale invasion for longer than one more year, adding that Moscow’s forces have “miserably failed” at the strategic level.

Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov told the Yalta European Strategy (YES) summit in Kyiv on Saturday that Russia’s invasion “didn’t work for the better” for the Kremlin, leaving the country’s armed forces and economy much diminished.

Despite Russian tactical adaptations and impressive defenses in southern Ukraine, Budanov—who has become well-known for his psychological operations against Russia—suggested the war may end in Ukrainian victory before the end of 2024.

“If it’s a ‘long-term’ fight, what is the spell of time?” Budanov said, when asked if Ukraine is taking steps to prepare for a lengthy conflict. “Are you talking about half a year, one year, 50 years?”

“I do not hold the opinion that this is going to be a long-term fight,” he continued. “This is my personal stance, which is based on analyzing the data that we possess…concerning our foes. Physically they cannot resist for a long time.”

“If you’re talking about half a year, seven months, up to a year, and you think that this is lengthy and long-term, then definitely you are right.”

Ukraine’s slow southeastern counteroffensive has raised concerns that Kyiv’s ultimate goal of full territorial liberation is not possible, at least not soon. The renewal of peace talks looks a distant prospect, with neither Ukrainian nor Russian leaders showing any sign of compromise.

Budanov told the YES event on Saturday that the southeastern drive is only one axis of Ukraine’s broader counteroffensive operations, adding: “We are still moving on slightly, slowly but surely.”

“The offensive is still taking place,” Budanov said. “It may not be moving on as fast as I would probably wish for it to move on, and I’m not hiding this fact.” Operations, he said, have been slowed by “heavily mined” territory, networks of well-prepared defenses, massed artillery, and large numbers of “kamikaze” drones.

Regardless, Budanov painted a grim picture of Russian prospects, as has come to be expected of the Ukrainian spy chief. “The condition of the regime in the Russian Federation now is drastically different from what it used to be before 2022,” he said.

“It has become weaker, their economy is failing, and this is a fact…they’ve really gone down in their military might.” Moscow, he said, no longer appears “as strong as it is supposed to be.”

Budanov suggested that Ukraine’s maximalist war goals constitute the only lasting solution to end the fighting. “Any other option is just freezing this war,” he said. “The exchange of drones attacks will continue if we do not come back to the border that is internationally recognized.”

Drone attacks inside Russia, Budanov added, are pushing Russian society into “panic mode,” citing disruptions to civil aviation and reports of a surge in civilian insurance sales amid recent UAV strikes. Such developments, he said are “a sure sign of panic.”

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