Austrian Chancellor reveals Putin’s chilling response to Russian casualties

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Delphi, Greece: Austria’s leader has revealed the chilling response Vladimir Putin gave when informed of mass Russian casualties during the first year of the war in Ukraine.

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer was the first European leader to travel to Moscow in April 2022 to confront Putin about his illegal invasion a couple of months earlier.

Austria’s Chancellor Karl NehammerCredit: AP

Nehammer had first travelled to Ukraine and witnessed the atrocities in Bucha, the scene of alleged war crimes carried out by the invaders.

Speaking to the Delphi Economic Forum in the ancient Greek city, north-west of Athens, Nehammer said he relayed to Putin the mass Russian casualties that he saw in the woods he had to travel through because the local roads and bridges had been bombed.

“What I saw was the brutality of the war in Ukraine,” he told the audience.

“We saw a lot of destroyed heavy and light tanks of the Russians and when I met President Putin I confronted him with what I saw.

“I’m a soldier myself and he knows that, and I told him that the loss of his soldiers … the number is huge.

But Nehammer said his account of the scale of the loss of Russian life made no impact on Putin.

“He didn’t show any sign of impression, he was not impressed by that number at all; he was impressed by the fact of the sanctions against the Russian Federation.

“He was and I think he is completely in his own war logic.”

It was Nehammer’s first face-to-face meeting with Putin and he said he came away pessimistic about any end to the war. Yet, more than 14 months after the first Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine he is again hopeful for a ceasefire.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.Credit: AP

“Maybe now we have a chance again, maybe a chance for a ceasefire,” he said, citing the talks between Russia and Ukraine on war prisoner swaps and for the export of grain via Odesa.

Leaked intelligence documents suggest that Russia has already suffered up to 222,00 casualties, including up to 43,000 wounded. Ukraine has suffered up to 131,000 casualties with up to 17,000 killed in action.

Ukraine is gearing up to launch its long-awaited spring offensive against the Russians, which could determine the fate of the war and the country’s future.

Speaking to a private dinner on the sidelines of the event, former US General and CIA director David Petraeus predicted the Ukrainians would make significant gains and said it was even possible that the Russians could partially or completely collapse – though he said that is not the base case.

“What the Ukrainians are going to do, for the first time in the war by either side, is achieve combined arms effects,” Petraeus said.

Former director of the CIA General David Petraeus.Credit: AP

This means combining the effects of tanks, artillery and mortars, enabled by drones over the enemy forces, infantry with armoured fighting vehicles, air defences to keep the Russian air force at bay, engineers to reduce obstacles, defuse mines, and electronic warfare to jam Russia’s unencrypted, single channel radio communication.

This will all be supported by logistics elements with additional ammunition, fuel, food, water, and medical support and followed by additional forces that could sustain the momentum of the attack when the lead elements have achieved all they can.

“We did this during the fight to Baghdad when I was a two-star general and a division commander,” Petraeus explained, “and when you get that going, momentum builds, it’s terrifying for the enemy.”

He said the Ukrainians have reportedly been building nine or more new brigades, of between 2500-3500 troops at training centres in Germany, the UK and Poland.

This meant Ukraine would be much better trained, combined with Western tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, than the Russian conscripts Putin was sending to the frontline with minimal training.

“It’s going to be a very different force that we see from Ukraine against Russia this time,” Petraeus said.

“The question then is, can this be sufficiently significant that Vladimir Putin finally recognises that the Russians will not be able to out-suffer the Ukrainians, the Europeans, and the Americans, which he thinks the Russians still can do just the same way that Russians out-suffered Napoleon’s army and the Soviet Union out-suffered the Nazis?

“One of the dynamics that could actually happen is the Russian military could truly collapse either locally or more broadly across the front; now, I’m not predicting that – it’s not the base case, but it is by no means impossible.”

He said the brutality of Russia’s command style could contribute to this scenario.

“The Russian military is a top-down, authoritarian, abusive leadership climate, with many individual replacements, and that’s not the kind of organisation that hangs together in the face of serious adversity.”

Petraeus said if Ukraine makes significant advancements, that will also bolster Western resolve to continue supporting the war effort.

“And it sends a message to the Kremlin, as well, that this war will not be winnable. So, there is an enormous amount riding on the Ukrainian offensive,” he said.

The reporter travelled to Delphi as a guest of the Delphi Economic Forum.

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