Ex-MI6 spy says Putin has made 'gross miscalculations' in Ukraine
10th March 2022

Ex-MI6 spy Christopher Steele says Putin has made ‘gross miscalculations’ which will ‘lead to his downfall’ – but warns desperate Russian troops could resort to ‘indiscriminate killing’ and using chemical weapons

  • Christopher Steele worked for the British secret service for over two decades
  • He also headed up MI6’s Russian operations from 2006 – 2009 
  • He said Putin has ‘overreached’ and the invasion will ‘lead to his downfall’
  • It comes as a Russian assault on Kyiv was repelled by Ukrainian forces
  • But Steele warned that the slow progress of Russian troops thus far could result in Putin ordering more violence and ‘indiscriminate killings’ in the short-term.

Vladimir Putin has ‘overreached’ in his invasion of Ukraine and the ‘despicable operation will lead to his downfall’, the former head of MI6’s Russian division said today.

Christopher Steele, who was a member of the British secret service for over two decades and led MI6 operations in Russia from 2006-2009, said Putin will never be accepted back into the international community and his regime will ultimately collapse as a result. 

‘I don’t see him surviving this in the long term. I think we’ve gone over a watershed here,’ Steele declared in an interview with Sky News Thursday evening.

‘An operation on this scale is really beyond Russia… I think there are several gross miscalculations here by Putin.’

It comes as a Russian assault on Kyiv was repelled earlier today by Ukrainian forces who successfully pushed back the invaders’ advances towards the capital from the west and east, inflicting heavy losses with an artillery ambush of Russian armour outside Brovary, east of the capital, and killing a high-ranking commander in the process.

But Steele warned that the slow progress of Russian troops thus far could result in Putin ordering more violence and ‘indiscriminate killings’ in the short-term. 

Christopher Steele, who was a member of the British secret service for over two decades and led MI6 operations in Russia from 2006-2009, said Putin will never be accepted back into the international community and his regime will ultimately collapse as a result

‘I don’t see him surviving this in the long term. I think we’ve gone over a watershed here,’ Steele declared in an interview with Sky News Thursday evening. ‘An operation on this scale is really beyond Russia… I think there are several gross miscalculations here by Putin’

It comes as a Russian assault on Kyiv was repelled earlier today by Ukrainian forces, who successfully pushed back the invaders’ advances towards the capital from the west and east (Ukrainian servicemen walk in front of a Russian tank that they captured after fighting, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, outside Brovary near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022)

Ukraine’s troops inflicted heavy losses on the invaders with an artillery ambush of Russian armour, killing a high-ranking commander in the process

Steele went on to explain that Putin’s dictatorial leadership style may contribute to his eventual downfall, reasoning that as regular Russian citizens and oligarchs alike see sanctions bite, the likelihood of his deposition increases.

‘One of the problems is, when you run an authoritarian regime like he does and you don’t welcome criticism or debates within the leadership, then you end up with bad advice and hearing the things you want to hear from your advisors.

‘As people’s living standards start to fall, they will be increased protests on the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities. And I think that will play in to probably an elite attempt to remove Putin in due course.’

The progress of the Russian invasion force has been slow to say the least, with attempts to overwhelm Ukrainian defences on the outskirts of the capital in both Irpin to the west and Brovary to the east resoundingly defeated last night and earlier today. 

Ukraine’s military also reported today that a Russian onslaught in Mykolayiv was thwarted, as Putin’s men tried to push towards Kryvyi Rih – to the northeast and birthplace of the President – and Voznesensk – to the northwest.

But Steele argued the poor progress may encourage Putin to step up the already brutal bombardment of several Ukrainian cities in an attempt to force the top brass into submission. 

‘As the Russian army becomes bogged down, more desperate, and clearly not realising its objectives militarily, you’re likely to see more indiscriminate killing and bombardment and possibly the use of a [chemical] weapon,’ Steele said.

The warning comes after the besieged city of Mariupol in the south of Ukraine saw its maternity hospital targeted in an airstrike yesterday, after the metropolis had already endured 10 days of bombardment with its citizens largely cut off from water, power and humanitarian aid.

A doctor navigates the ward of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, southern Ukraine, after it was destroyed by Russian bombs

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol

A woman injured in Russian shelling of Mariupol’s maternity hospital stands outside wrapped in a blanket amid the carnage

At least three people were killed and 17 wounded in the strike, while elsewhere mortuary workers were seen carting dozens of dead bodies – mostly civilians – to the outskirts of the decimated port city and then dumping them in mass graves.

A convoy tried today to bring supplies, but there was no word on whether it had managed to get through by early afternoon. Four previous attempts to bring relief to the city have failed, after Ukraine said Russia shelled the route it was intending to use.

Indiscriminate Russian airstrikes have also targeted cities Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Zhytomyr, among others, resulting in further civilian deaths.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meanwhile echoed Steele’s concerns that Russia may resort to the use of chemical weapons to accelerate their invasion.

Boris Johnson today said he fears Vladimir Putin will use chemical weapons in Ukraine because it would be ‘straight out of Russia’s playbook’. He made the comments to Sky News’ Beth Rigby Interviews show

Johnson also said he believes Russia is preparing a ‘fake story’ which it could use to deny using the weapons and to blame the West. 

‘The stuff that you are hearing about chemical weapons, this is straight out of their playbook,’ he told Sky News today.

‘They start saying that there are chemical weapons that have been stored by their opponents or by the Americans and so when they themselves deploy chemical weapons, as I fear they may, they have a sort of maskirovka, a fake story, ready to go. And you have seen it in Syria. You saw it even in the UK.’

Asked if it was his expectation that Russia will use chemical weapons, the premier said: ‘I just note that that is what they are already doing [preparing a fake story]. It is a cynical, barbaric government I am afraid.’ 

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