US slashes Russia trade status and bans more imports
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The Russian leader is coming under huge pressure from across the globe for launching the largest conflict in Europe since World War Two, sparking international condemnation and crippling sanctions. The military invasion has displaced more than two million Ukrainian refugees and claimed the lives of 549 civilians so far, 41 of whom were children. Despite the bloodshed, US and UK intelligence suggests “little progress” has been made by the Russian troops after huge strategic miscalculations.
But after bringing his country to war and isolating Russia from the rest of the world, experts believe Putin has few options left.
Defence analyst Professor Michael Clarke, former director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, told Express.co.uk: “I think he’s finished as a leader. Whether it takes three years or three months, he’s got nowhere to go.
“He’s saddled himself with this completely impossible war and he’s become the greatest villain of the 21st century so far.
“Even if he was somehow, in some magical way, to succeed he’s put himself in the categories of Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi, and then before that Mussolini and Hitler – he is in that class of leader.
“Everyone remembers it was revulsion except a few people his own country for the time being.”
Successive strategic blunders mean Putin’s chance of success in Ukraine is slim, according to Professor Clarke.
Satellite images of a 40-mile convoy of armoured vehicles heading for Kyiv sparked terror last week but ground to a halt 19 miles from the city and made no significant movement for a number of days.
On Friday, US intelligence detected movement, with some troops turning back and others edging forward once more.
The reasons for little significant movement could be due to mechanical problems, fuel supply issues and mounting Ukrainian resistance, intelligence suggests.
Plagued by poor morale as well as fuel and food shortages, some Russian troops have surrendered en masse or sabotaged their own vehicles to avoid fighting, according to a Pentagon report.
In some cases, Russian troops have deliberately punched holes in their vehicles’ gas tanks, presumably to avoid combat.
Meanwhile, Russian government officials are “privately denouncing” Mr Putin’s war as “a clusterf***”, according to a report from Russian journalist Farida Rustamova, citing a high-level source in the Russian government complaining that Kremlin insiders believe the war to be a complete disaster.
Professor Clarke, associate director of the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute, added: “We’re through a quarter of the 21st century and Zelensky has emerged as the greatest hero of the first part of the 21st century and Putin is the greatest villain and there’s no getting around that.
“He is stuck with it.”
Only some 58 percent of Russians approve of the invasion of Ukraine, while 23 percent oppose it, according to a poll conducted across Russia last week by a group of independent survey research organisations.
Around 10,000 Russian troops were lost in the first ten days of the Ukrainian invasion, far worse than the 15,000 troops lost over nine years in Afghanistan.
These heavy losses are likely to see both Putin and the war’s approval ratings plummet over time.
Professor Clarke said: “That loss of 15,000 back in the ’80s started to have a big effect on public opinion in the Soviet Union, so what effect 10,000 in 10 days will have… even though the Russian public don’t hear much about this, mothers don’t know what’s happened to their sons.
“They don’t know what’s happened to these boys because nobody’s been brought back. The Russians took crematoria with them – mobile crematoria.
“These bodies are being cremated where they fall.
“They’re not being returned home, but their mothers will wonder where on earth they are.”
Wise to Russian misinformation, the international community has been quick to turn on Putin, with the US and UK banning Russian oil and the EU pledging an end to its reliance on Russian gas.
Western countries have also frozen the assets of Russia’s central bank as well as cutting the country off from the SWIFT international financial messaging system.
Individual Russian oligarchs have also been slapped with sanctions in the US, UK and EU in a bid to shake Putin’s power.
The world will not forget or forgive Putin for the atrocities he has committed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned.
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