Russian forces 'running out of steam' in Ukraine, says MI6 boss

Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo gives his analysis of the unprecedented intelligence assessment

Russian forces are “about to run out of steam" in Ukraine, says the head of MI6, which will give Ukrainians the chance to “strike back.”

Richard Moore, head of the British foreign intelligence agency, told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, in the United States, Ukrainian counter-attacks are important for national morale.

With the Kremlin reiterating its plans to seize territories beyond eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, Mr Moore said the Russians will have to “pause in some way."

“I think they’re about to run out of steam, I think our assessment is that the Russians will increasingly find it difficult to supply manpower, material over the next few weeks,” he said.

“They will have to pause in some way and that will give the Ukrainians opportunities to strike back, their morale is still high.”

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Analysts from the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, echoed Mr Moore’s message, despite a high chance some more cities could be captured.

They noted that “Russian troops are now struggling to move across relatively sparsely-settled and open terrain” and “will encounter terrain much more conducive to the Ukrainian defenders."

It comes as Russian shelling pounded a densely populated area in Ukraine's second-largest city of Kharkiv on Thursday, killing at least three people and injuring at least 23 others.

Police said cluster bombs hit Barabashovo Market, where Associated Press journalists saw a woman crying over her dead husband’s body.

Local officials said the shelling also struck a bus stop, a gym and a residential building.

Sabina, centre, cries after her husband Artem Pogorelets was killed by Russian shelling at Barabashovo market in Kharkiv. Credit: AP

The Russian military has spent months trying to conquer Ukraine's Donbas region, which is south of Kharkiv.

It also followed Ukrainian attacks this week on a bridge the Russians have used to supply their forces in occupied areas near the country's southern Black Sea coast.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said the attacks early on Thursday targeted one of the most crowded areas of the city, which had a pre-war population of around 1.4 million.

“The Russian army is randomly shelling Kharkiv, peaceful residential areas, civilians are being killed,” Mr Terekhov said.

The cluster bombs claim could not be independently confirmed. AP journalists at the scene saw burned-out cars and a bus pierced by shrapnel.