Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Russia’s attacks on the Ukrainian people will not compensate for its failings on the battlefield – UK statement to the OSCE [May 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 17 May 2023.

UK military advisor, Ian Stubbs, says the success of Ukraine’s air defence in protecting its citizens should not distract from the horrific tactics of the Kremlin.

Thank you, Madam Chair. Over the past week, Russia has continued to launch large-scale missile and drone strikes on towns and cities across Ukraine. Yesterday, Kyiv endured a particularly intense attack. Thankfully, reports indicate that most of the missiles and drones were intercepted by Ukrainian air defence, significantly reducing the potential scale of civilian casualties. A sober demonstration that air defence systems gifted, by international partners of Ukraine, are saving lives.

However, the success of Ukraine’s air defences in protecting its citizens and civilian infrastructure should not distract from the calculated and callous actions of Russia’s military leadership. Actions that aim to bring terror and suffering to Ukrainian people – all because they have demonstrated unwavering courage and resolve to stand up to a brutal and barbaric invader. Russia must know that these horrific tactics have not and will not work; they will not compensate for its failings on the battlefield.

Madam Chair, Russia’s invasion is stalling. In Bakhmut, despite months of attempts and thousands of casualties, Russia still has not managed to achieve tactical success. Over the last five days, reports indicate that elements of Russia’s 72nd Separate Motor Rifle Brigade withdrew in bad order from their positions to the south of the city. Ukrainian assaults have also forced back the Russian frontline to the north-west. In total, Ukrainian forces are assessed to have re-taken nearly 20 square km around Bakhmut over the last two weeks.

This has come at great cost to Russia. Since summer 2022, Wagner and regular Russian forces have likely suffered well over 30,000 personnel killed and wounded in the Popasna-Bakhmut sector alone.

Russian disorder on the battlefield is seemingly fuelling further dysfunction in the already fraught relationship between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defence. On 11 May 2023, Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin criticised the Russian armed forces for fleeing during the Ukrainian advances on the Bakhmut flanks. He said that gains made with “blood and lives” were being thrown away. He called Russia’s so-called “Special Military Operation” a “stupid war” and speculated over what will happen when soldiers realise they have been set up by those “sitting in mahogany offices”.

Madam Chair, more widely, if we look at the state of Russia’s invasion force in Ukraine there is a similarly telling situation. The current Russian Combined Grouping of Forces (CGF) looks similar in size and composition to the invasion force of 24 February last year, but it is not. Back then, the force consisted of professional soldiers; was largely equipped with reasonably modern vehicles; and had been regularly exercised, aspiring to conduct complex, joint operations.  But the professional force failed to achieve the strategic and operational goals it was set.

Now the CGF consists mostly of poorly trained mobilised reservists and is increasingly reliant on antiquated equipment, with many of its units severely under-strength. The CGF now routinely only conducts simple, infantry-based operations. Russia has failed to command air superiority over Ukraine; a theatre of war which Russia created, and which Russia chose to fight. Recent reports of four Russian military aircraft lost over Russia’s Bryansk region indicates Russia’s ability to operate safely in its own airspace is now compromised.

How can the Russian military leadership possibly think that a force of largely amateur soldiers will succeed where Russia’s professional army has already failed? Russia must realise that it can never win in Ukraine. If it keeps fighting, it will keep losing.

Madam Chair, the UK and its international partners are steadfast in our support for Ukraine as demonstrated by the continued provision of military assistance. On Monday, our Prime Minster met with President Zelenskyy and announced the UK’s further gifting of hundreds of air defence missiles and unmanned aerial systems including new long-range attack drones with a range of over 200km. This package of military assistance was in addition to provision of Storm Shadow precision missiles announced last week.

Madam Chair, Ukraine has regained territory and liberated thousands of Ukrainian people thanks to the awe-inspiring bravery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the resilience of the Ukrainian people and overwhelming international support. Together, the UK and partners are ensuring that Ukraine will win. Our united approach of providing Ukraine with the support it needs to defend itself and push Russia out of Ukraine’s sovereign territory is the swiftest, and only, path to a just and lasting peace. Thank you.