The claim comes amid further reports of collapsing morale and deteriorating discipline among the rank and file of the Kremlin’s invasion force. Last week, Kyiv formally acknowledged it had launched its much anticipated counteroffensive in the south. Early reports suggested Ukraine’s army had succeeded in making early breakthroughs in several directions towards Kherson.
The city is located on the Black Sea and Dnipro river and fell to the Russians early in the war, after its defenders fled without putting up a fight.
Ukrainian officials have dampened expectations of a quick victory, saying the counterattack would be a long drawn out affair and urged people to be patient.
Analysts believe the current aim is not to recapture territory or the port city, but rather to cut off and destroy a Russian unit located to the north of Kherson between the Dnipro and Inhulets rivers.
However, a top Ukrainian official has said that Putin’s army in the south could be on the brink of collapse.
Vitalii Kim, the head of the Mykolaiv Regional Military Administration, claimed panic was rife among Russian soldiers and many wanted to flee.
He said: “The mood among the occupiers: Everything is lost, we have been abandoned.
“Nobody wants to die, everyone wants to run, but they are stopped by an order or something.”
He added: “That is why they have the mood corresponding to the operational situation, which is now on the front.”
It comes amid further claims of deteriorating morale and discipline among Putin’s army.
Russian forces have been plagued by poor leadership and inadequate logistical support, leaving many soldiers short of vital military equipment.
High casualties have also taken a severe toll on army morale, with Ukrainian estimates suggesting over 49,000 soldiers have been killed in action.
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“In Ukraine, there has highly likely been significant problems with sizeable combat bonuses not being paid.
“This is probably due to inefficient military bureaucracy, the unusual legal status of the ‘special military operation’, and at least some outright corruption amongst commanders.”
The analysts concluded: “The Russian military has consistently failed to provide basic entitlements to troops deployed in Ukraine, including appropriate uniform, arms and rations, as well as pay.
“This has almost certainly contributed to the continued fragile morale of much of the force.”