Russia has lost half its combat capability in Ukraine, says UK armed forces chief

The Russian army has lost half of its combat effectiveness in Ukraine, including as many as 2,500 tanks, and the main push of Kyiv’s counter-offensive is still to come, the head of Britain’s armed forces has said.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin rejected suggestions that Ukraine’s counter-offensive was proceeding slowly, arguing that the pushback against Russia was “never a singular act”, and that Kyiv’s military strategy to “starve, stretch and strike” was gradually breaking down Russian defensive lines.

Ukraine has struggled to puncture Russia’s heavily fortified defences in its counter-attack launched a month ago, deflating hopes among some of Kyiv’s western allies that Ukraine’s armed forces would achieve a rapid breakthrough.

“The question is, how do you take a front line that is more than a thousand kilometres long and turn it into more of a problem for Russia than for Ukraine?” Radakin told a parliamentary hearing. “That is why you are seeing multiple axes being probed and feints by Ukraine.”

Radakin acknowledged that the “stronger than expected” density of Russian minefields, a lack of Ukrainian air cover and “not all the [military] equipment that they [Kyiv] desired” had complicated the campaign.

But he also said it was unfair to hold Ukraine to a specific timeline and that “Russia is now so weak that it does not have the strength for [its own] counter-offensive.”

“Russia has lost nearly half the combat effectiveness of its army,” Radakin said. “Last year it fired 10mn artillery shells but at best can produce 1mn shells a year. It has lost 2,500 tanks and at best can produce 200 [new] tanks a year,” he said.

The UK is the second-largest provider of military aid to Ukraine after the US, and has been at the vanguard in terms of providing Kyiv with advanced military equipment, including main battle tanks and long range cruise missiles.

In an often testy series of exchanges with members of the UK parliament’s defence committee, Radakin also defended the British armed forces’ own state of readiness — although he acknowledged the army was using armoured vehicles that are “really old”.

“We need to have deeper stockpiles, we need to be more lethal and we need to increase our productivity,” Radakin said. “I wouldn’t say I’m happy.”

The ministry of defence is due to issue a long-delayed command paper on how the British armed forces will spend its annual defence budget of about £50bn. Radakin said he “understood” that this would be published before parliament’s summer recess begins on July 20.

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