The United States intelligence agencies have stated that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin is preparing for a long war in Ukraine, with even victory in the east potentially not ending the conflict.
The warning comes as fierce fighting continues in the eastern part of Ukraine, where Russia is trying to take territory with a small group of fighters the only obstacle stopping Russia from having total control over Mariupol.
Moscow refocused its troops on capturing the Donbas region after Ukraine resisted attempts to take its capital, Kyiv. But despite this, its forces remain in a stalemate, US intelligence said.
Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, told a US Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, May 10 that Putin was still intending “to achieve goals beyond the Donbas”, but that he “faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia’s current conventional military capabilities”.
However, the Russian president could turn to “more drastic means” as the war continues – although Moscow would only use nuclear weapons if Putin perceived an “existential threat” to Russia.
Defence Intelligence Agency Director Scott Berrier told the same hearing that the Russians and the Ukrainians were “at a bit of a stalemate”.
The statement comes after Ukraine claim to have recaptured four settlements in the north-eastern Kharkiv region while Russia bombed the Odessa region of Ukraine on Tuesday killing scores.
Also Ukraine announced it had captured back Cherkasy Tyshky, Ruski Tyshky, Rubizhne and Bayrak from Russia.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian successes were gradually pushing Russian forces out of Kharkiv, which has been bombarded since the war began.
But he said Ukrainians “should not create an atmosphere of excessive moral pressure, where victories are expected weekly and even daily”.