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Fighting in Ukraine slows as winter bites: Outlook is ‘optimistic’, US intelligence chief says 

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Fighting in Ukraine slows as winter bites: Bitter cold hits troops fighting Russian invaders… but outlook is ‘optimistic’, US intelligence chief says

  • Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said pace of the battle has changed
  • The head of US intelligence said both sides are looking to ‘refit, resupply and reconstitute’ ahead of a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in the spring
  • Intelligence agencies doubt Russia will be able to meet this challenge next year
  • Recent polling suggest Russian public support for invasion ‘falling significantly’

The fighting in Ukraine is slowing as winter has blown in but the outlook is ‘optimistic’ for Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops next year, the head of US intelligence has said.

Avril Haines said Russian withdrawals following a series of defeats in eastern Ukraine and the onset of freezing weather had changed the pace of the battle.

‘We’re seeing a kind of reduced tempo already in the conflict and we expect that’s likely to be what we see in the coming months,’ said the Director of National Intelligence.

This means both sides will look to ‘refit, resupply, and reconstitute’ ahead of a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in the spring, she added. And intelligence agencies doubt whether Russia has the capacity or willingness to meet such a challenge next year.

Miss Haines said: ‘I think more optimistically for the Ukrainians in that timeframe.’

The fighting in Ukraine is slowing as winter has blown in but the outlook is ‘optimistic’ for Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops next year, the head of US intelligence has said. Pictured: Bakhmut in the Donetsk region today

Avril Haines (pictured) said Russian withdrawals following a series of defeats in eastern Ukraine and the onset of freezing weather had changed the pace of the battle

Avril Haines (pictured) said Russian withdrawals following a series of defeats in eastern Ukraine and the onset of freezing weather had changed the pace of the battle

The comments will bring hope that the war might finally come to an end a little more than a year after it began.

Vladimir Putin launched his illegal invasion in February, but was immediately thwarted as his troops failed to take the capital Kyiv and other central areas.

Russian forces retreated to focus on the east and south of the country, initially winning territory but then losing much of it during a Ukrainian counter-offensive in August and September

It has been reported that Russian military top brass have not made Putin aware of the gravity of the situation as tens of thousands of their soldiers have perished.

Ms Haines said both sides will look to 'refit, resupply, and reconstitute' ahead of a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in the spring. Pictured: medics working on a member of the Ukrainian military in a frontline field hospital near Bakhmut today

Ms Haines said both sides will look to ‘refit, resupply, and reconstitute’ ahead of a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in the spring. Pictured: medics working on a member of the Ukrainian military in a frontline field hospital near Bakhmut today

On Saturday, Mr Zelensky (pictured on Friday meeting with Ukrainian defenders who were released from Russian captivity) attacked Western efforts to hit Russia's crucial oil industry, a key source of funds for Putin's war machine, saying their $60-per-barrel price cap on imports of Russian oil was insufficient

On Saturday, Mr Zelensky (pictured on Friday meeting with Ukrainian defenders who were released from Russian captivity) attacked Western efforts to hit Russia’s crucial oil industry, a key source of funds for Putin’s war machine, saying their $60-per-barrel price cap on imports of Russian oil was insufficient

Miss Haines said Putin was now ‘becoming more informed of the challenges that the military faces in Russia.

‘But it’s still not clear to us that he has a full picture at this stage of just how challenged they are.’

Her comments came as British intelligence officials said recent polling suggested that Russian public support for the invasion is ‘falling significantly’.

Yesterday’s update from the Ministry of Defence said: ‘An independent Russian media outlet has claimed access to data collected by Russia’s Federal Protective Service for internal use. The data indicated that 55 per cent of Russians favour peace talks with Ukraine, with only 25 per cent claiming to support continuing the conflict.’

Vladimir Putin (pictured) launched his illegal invasion in February, but was immediately thwarted as his troops failed to take the capital Kyiv and other central areas

The MoD added: ‘With Russia unlikely to achieve major battlefield successes in the next several months, maintaining even tacit approval of the war among the population is likely to be increasingly difficult for the Kremlin.’

On Saturday, Mr Zelensky attacked Western efforts to hit Russia’s crucial oil industry, a key source of funds for Putin’s war machine, saying their $60-per-barrel price cap on imports of Russian oil was insufficient.

‘It is not a serious decision to set such a limit for Russian prices, which is quite comfortable for the budget of the terrorist state,’ the Ukrainian president said.

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