Russia has 'not taken any of its main objectives' says Wallace
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Military officials understand there was not a united view on war with Kiev in the Kremlin ahead of Thursday’s middle of the night attack. President Putin pressed ahead with conflict despite some in Moscow believing the incursion to be a catastrophic error.
Officials point to the heavily staged meeting of the Russian Security Council meeting on Monday as proof Putin does not have the backing of the whole Kremlin.
The political theatre saw the Russian leader ask members of the council one by one if they agreed rebel held areas of Ukraine should be recognised as independent states.
Some of those in attendance appeared nervous and jittery as they were asked to give their view, with Wester military officials saying they were being humiliated and bullied by Putin into endorsing the aggressive action.
They believe that while the Russian President is strong, the disunity inside the Kremlin will unfold in the coming days.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said this morning that more than 450 Russian troops have so far died in the attack on Ukraine.
He told Sky News: “Our assessment as of this morning is that Russia has not taken any of its major objectives, in fact it is behind its hoped-for timetable.
“They’ve lost over 450 personnel. One of the significant airports they were trying to capture with their elite Spetsnaz has failed to be taken. In fact, the Ukrainians have taken it back.
“So, I think contrary to great Russian claims and indeed President Putin’s sort of vision that somehow the Ukrainians would be liberated and would be flocking to his cause – he’s got that completely wrong.
“The Russian army has failed to deliver on day one its main objective.”
Amid the bloodshed, thousands of Russian citizens have taken to the streets to protest against Putin.
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More than 1,600 people were detained by police last night as dissent was visible in city centres.
Protesters defied a warning issued on Thursday by the Investigative Committee – the Russian domestic security agency – that explicitly threatened criminal action and even jail time for people calling for or taking part in protests.
Chants of “no to war” rung out in cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.
Some even held up makeshift signs comparing Putin to Hitler.
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High profile figures and Russian celebrities also joined in the dissent.
Ivan Urgant, one of Russia’s most famous television comedians, wrote on Instagram: “Fear and Pain. NO TO WAR.”
Maxim Galkin, a television presenter and singer, said: “I’ve been in touch with my relatives and friends from Ukraine since morning! I can’t explain in words what I feel! How is this possible! No war can be justified! No to war!”
Others included Fedor Smolov, a footballer for Russia’s national soccer team, Russia’s former no1 tennis player Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Nobel laureate Dmitry Muratov, chief editor of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper.
Some of them and other Russians posted a blank, black picture on Instagram to voice opposition.
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