UK military advisor, Ian Stubbs, says the staggering casualties suffered by Russia around Bakhmut have had significant impact on personnel and munition stocks.
Thank you, Mr Chair and welcome Deputy Minister of Defence Galić to this Forum. Mr Chair, I would like to start by thanking you and your team for your stewardship over the past trimester. It is nearly 400 days since Russia’s barbaric and illegal invasion of Ukraine. Since then, we have seen the extraordinary determination of the Ukrainian people as they defend their homeland. With support from their partners, Ukraine has shown that agility and ingenuity can have a devastating effect against a so-called super power.
In recent weeks, the staggering casualties suffered by Russia around Bakhmut appear to have had significant impact. Their assault seemingly stalled, reports suggest that the Russian military and Wagner group urgently need to replenish personnel and munition stocks. Approximately 30,000 Russian fighters have been killed or wounded since the battle for Bakhmut began nine months ago, with the Wagner-dominated force advancing just 25km in this time.
Mr Chair, try as they might to present an alternate reality to the ground truth with an increasingly ridiculous carpet of disinformation, the astounding levels of incompetence in Russia’s military leadership that have eroded Russia’s military reputation are clear for all to see.
In February, ahead of the 14th Aero India biennial air show, the Director of the Russian Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, stated that the “special military operation provided foreign experts with an opportunity to see Russian military products in use in actual combat conditions, convincing them of their high technical performance and reliability”. In the same week, Russian Soviet made MT-LB multipurpose tracked armoured vehicles were observed operating in eastern Ukraine modified with old naval turrets and guns, still painted in naval colours. These Stalin era naval weapon systems, 60-year-old T-62 main battle tanks and vintage BTR-50 armoured personnel carriers that Russia is operating in Ukraine are indeed a true demonstration of the type of “high technical performance” for which Russia’s military and defence industry are now regarded.
In contrast, the UK has provided sophisticated artillery and air defence systems, and modern anti-tank munitions to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s brutal and indiscriminate attacks. The UK was the first nation to pledge modern main battle tanks to Ukraine – and we are grateful to all our Allies who have now done likewise. These Challenger 2 MBTs are a step change in capability for Ukraine’s Armed Forces, equipped with some of the most modern and sophisticated gunnery systems in the world.
Mr Chair, for well over a year now, our Russian colleagues have attempted to use this forum to distract from failures on the battlefield with a campaign of lies, threats and propaganda. When this has not worked, they have become increasingly contemptuous of this Forum, belligerent towards the Chair, and threatening towards fellow delegates – such behaviour is a tacit sign of weakness. Russia’s decision to block the Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC) agenda and your Security Dialogue last week because you would not cede to its attempts to negotiate by ultimatum, was a deplorable example of its attempts to undermine the principles under which we meet in this Chamber.
Against such behaviour, we must do our upmost to ensure the integrity of this Forum, such that it is able to fulfil its mandate. Russia has attempted to break the foundations of European security, violated the UN Charter, and flagrantly disregarded the Helsinki Final Act’s core principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the non-use of force. However, we have shown that these principles, and this Forum, matter. We will stand up to defend them both.
The UK looks forward to working with the incoming Bulgarian Chair in what will clearly continue to be a challenging time for the FSC, the OSCE and European security writ large. We also thank Belgium who leave the troika and welcome our Canadian colleagues.
Mr Chair, on a final note, the UK condemns in the strongest terms Putin’s recent announcement on the planned stationing of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. The nuclear rhetoric and signalling that we have seen from Russia is irresponsible. Russia should seek to reduce tensions and the risk of miscalculation, not increase them. We again call on the Belarusian regime to desist from supporting Russia’s attempts to stoke further instability in the region and stop its support of Russia’s illegal invasion.
Mr Chair, Ukraine has turned the tide in this war, regaining territory and liberating thousands of Ukrainian people. Ukraine has done this thanks to the awe-inspiring bravery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the resilience of the Ukrainian people and strong international support. This must remain at the forefront of our minds and efforts into the next trimester. Together, with our Allies and partners, we will ensure that Ukraine will win.