Russian general ‘pushing the limits’ of how far Putin will tolerate failure in Ukraine, says UK

The Russian general in charge of the Ukrainian invasion may soon be “pushing the limits” of how far Moscow will tolerate failure, British defence chiefs have said.

General Valery Gerasimov, the Russian Chief of the General Staff (CGS), took personal command of the military operation on January 11, 2023.

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) says his tenure has been characterised by a “failed” effort to launch a winter offensive with the aim of gaining control over the whole of the Donbas region.

They wrote: “Gerasimov’s tenure has been characterised by an effort to launch a general winter offensive with the aim of extending Russian control over the whole of the Donbas region. Eighty days on, it is increasingly apparent that this project has failed.

Valery Gerasimov (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Valery Gerasimov (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

“On several axes across the Donbas front, Russian forces have made only marginal gains at the cost of tens of thousands of casualties, largely squandering its temporary advantage in personnel gained from the autumn’s ‘partial mobilisation’.

“After ten years as CGS, there is a realistic possibility that Gerasimov is pushing the limits of how far Russia’s political leadership will tolerate failure.”

It comes after a senior Ukrainian official ruled out any ceasefire that would involve Russian forces remaining on territory they occupy in Ukraine.

The remarks by Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, came after a call for a ceasefire by the Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

“Any ceasefire will mean (Russia’s) right to stay in the occupied territories. This is inadmissible,” Mr Podolyak said on Friday.

Russia similarly dismissed the notion of a ceasefire in Ukraine, saying it would not enable it to achieve the goals of its “special military operation”.

Separately, Mr Lukashenko said Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed to Belarus along with part of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal.

"Putin and I will decide and introduce here, if necessary, strategic weapons, and they must understand this, the scoundrels abroad, who today are trying to blow us up from inside and outside," the Belarusian leader said. "We will protect our sovereignty and independence by any means necessary, including through the nuclear arsenal."

While the Russian president emphasized that Russia will retain control over the tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Belarus, Mr Lukashenko charged that he also will have a say.

“Don’t say we will just be looking after them, and these are not our weapons,” he said.

“These are our weapons and they will contribute to ensuring sovereignty and independence.”

Mr Putin has said that construction of storage facilities for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus will be completed by July 1 and added that Russia has helped modernize Belarusian warplanes to make them capable of carrying nuclear weapons.