British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that the Russian military’s push in eastern Ukraine is exacting a high toll on its troops and resources, which he said could thwart future advances by the Kremlin.
Johnson, citing intelligence from his country’s defense services, remarked on the momentum of Russian troops and potential for exhausting their resources in an interview published Wednesday by Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, reports Reuters. The British prime minister offered a more upbeat outlook on Ukraine’s position in the conflict following reports that Russia has gained ground after pivoting its war effort.
After failing to take the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv earlier in the conflict, Russia’s military has turned to the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. The region is home to a large Russian-speaking population and two breakaway republics friendly with the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
However, Johnson suggested Russia’s recent gains won’t hold.
“Our defence intelligence service believes, however, that in the next few months, Russia could come to a point at which there is no longer any forward momentum because it has exhausted its resources,” Johnson said in the interview, according to Reuters.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence said in an assessment of the conflict earlier this month that Russian forces “have generated and maintained momentum” over Ukrainian troops and were on the cusp of taking full control of the Luhansk region.
But the ministry’s assessment found these gains came at a “significant resource cost” and Russia maintaining them would require a “continued huge investment of manpower and equipment.”
Johnson has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and last week made a high-profile visit to Kyiv. He said he would argue for continued military support for Ukraine at a summit of the Group of Seven (G7)—a meeting of advanced industrial democracies—in Germany over the weekend, according to Reuters.
“In as much as the Ukrainians are in a position to start a counter-offensive, it should be supported. With equipment that they demand from us,” Johnson said, according to Reuters.
The British leader made the remarks in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, among other European media outlets.
When asked by Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper about how the conflict should end, Johnson said Russian forces should be expelled from areas of Ukraine they’ve invaded. For that to happen, he said Western powers must continue aiding Ukraine.
“This is not the time to maintain the status quo, this is the time to try and turn things around,” he told the paper.
However, Dmitry Polyansky, a Russian diplomat to the United Nations, told Russia’s state-run TASS news agency that Western countries’ enthusiasm for Ukraine is waning.
“They can see that the United Nations is getting tired of the Ukrainian issue,” Polyansky said. “Their initial strategy was to bring up Ukraine with or without reason at every meeting of the Security Council and the General Assembly, regardless of its topic, acting like it is the most terrible thing that has ever happened.”
Newsweek reached out to the Russian government for comment.