According to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), Russian forces in Ukraine are “covering up” their humiliating loss in the city of Kherson and other parts of Ukraine. Inexperienced recruits are being put in charge of units that have suddenly found themselves without a commander in chief, the MoD has said.
In an update on the war on Sunday morning, the MoD wrote: “Russia’s recent withdrawal from west of Kherson was conducted in relatively good order compared to previous major Russian retreats during the war.
“During the retreat, vehicle losses were likely in the tens rather than hundreds, while much kit that was left behind was successfully destroyed by Russian forces to deny it to Ukraine.
“This relative success is likely partially due to a more effective, single operational command under General Sergei Surovikin. However, the force remains riven by poor junior and mid-level leadership and cover-up culture.
“For example, in recent months two companies subordinate to the Eastern Military District fled after their commander was killed. Other officers likely lied in an attempt to cover up the incident.”
It comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised 125 anti-aircraft guns and other air-defence technology as he made an unannounced visit Saturday — his first — to Ukraine’s snow-blanketed capital for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The air-defence package, which Britain valued at £50 million, comes as Russia has been pounding Ukraine’s power grid and other key infrastructure from the air, causing widespread blackouts for millions of Ukrainians amid frigid weather.
The package includes radar and other technology to counter the Iran-supplied exploding drones that Russia has used against Ukrainian targets. It comes on top of a delivery of more than 1,000 anti-air missiles that Britain announced earlier this month.
The U. has been one of the staunchest Western backers of Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion. Speaking alongside Zelensky, Mr Sunak noted that the UK has given £2.3 billion in military aid and pledged: “We will do the same again next year.”
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“Your homes, your hospitals, your power stations are being destroyed,” the Prime Minister said in announcing the new air-defence package. “You and your people are paying a heavy price in blood.”
Speaking through a translator, President Zelensky said Russian strikes have damaged around half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
As snowflakes fell, Mr Zelensky greeted Mr Sunak at a presidential palace for their talks. He called the two countries “the strongest of allies.” Walking in the snow, they also inspected captured Russian tanks and other destroyed and rusting military hardware used by the invasion forces that are displayed in a Kyiv square.
“With friends like you by our side, we are confident in our victory. Both of our nations know what it means to stand up for freedom,” the Ukrainian leader said on Twitter.
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Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who stepped down in July, won wide praise in Ukraine for his backing. Mr Sunak is keen to reassure Ukraine’s leaders that there will be no change of stance under his leadership, although when he was UK Treasury chief under Johnson he was considered resistant to demands for higher defence spending.
“The courage of the Ukrainian people is an inspiration to the world,” Mr Sunak said. “In years to come, we will tell our grandchildren of your story.”
He pledged that Britain “will stand with you until Ukraine has won the peace and security it needs and deserves and then we will stand with you as you rebuild your great country.”
Mr Sunak also laid flowers at a memorial for the war dead, lit a candle at a memorial for victims of a deadly Soviet-era famine in Ukraine in the 1930s, and met first responders at a fire station, his office said.