President Vladimir Putin has been poorly informed on the course of the war in Ukraine and his relations with his own staff have deteriorated, the White House said Wednesday on the basis of declassified US intelligence.
“We obviously have information which we have now made public that he felt misled by the Russian military,” White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said, confirming an earlier statement by a senior US official.
Ukrainian forces have been recapturing territory in recent days — including the strategic Kyiv suburb of Irpin — as the Russian offensive appears to stall, a month after the invasion began on February 24.
“We believe (Putin is) being misinformed by his advisors about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because, again, the senior advisors are too afraid to tell him the truth,” Bedingfield said.
The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Putin had been unaware that conscripts were being deployed to fight in Ukraine, where Russia has suffered huge personnel and equipment losses.
Asked about the intelligence while travelling in Algiers, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that in “autocracies… you don’t have people in those systems who speak truth to power.”
The White House is releasing the information as questions arise about Putin’s relationship with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The minister, a frequent presence in the media and on Russian TV, was not seen for two weeks until Saturday, giving rise to speculation, including about his health.
Shoigu is considered close to Putin — the two have taken trips to Siberia, driven all-terrain vehicles, and enjoyed tea and mushroom picking together.
There is “persistent tension between Putin and the MOD (Ministry of Defence), stemming from Putin’s mistrust in MOD leadership,” the senior US official said.