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Ukraine's spy chief on difficult times for the country, new forecast for 2024 and Kyiv offensive

Ukraine's spy chief on difficult times for the country, new forecast for 2024 and Kyiv offensive Head of the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov (Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine)

Ukraine's Defense Intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov had a large interview with BBC. He spoke about a very difficult period for Ukraine, gave a new forecast for the war, and explained how to solve the Telegram issue.

RBC-Ukraine summarized Budanov's main statements.

On Tu-22M3 downing

The interview with the spy boss started with a question about the Russian strategic bomber Tu-22M3, which was successfully shot down on April 19. When asked how long preparing for this operation lasted, Budanov said that it took a week for the ambush - waiting for the aircraft to reach the needed point.

"We waited long, prepared, and finally did it... I wouldn't want, frankly speaking, to reveal all of this. I can only say that the aircraft was hit at a distance of 308 kilometers, quite far. Let's say, fruitful and long work pays off. It's the same, as they say, technique and methods that we used when we destroyed the A-50 aircraft in the air," Budanov explained.

According to him, Russia still has such aircraft in its arsenal, but this downing will make it a bit easier for Odesa now because the Tu-22M3 used Kh-22 missiles, which caused notable damage to the city.

"Now, it's quite obvious, they will look for new thresholds, and towards Odesa, there are no other thresholds, basically. They will only use ground complexes for strikes on Odesa and missiles from long-range aviation and the sea. Kh-22, I hope, won't be seen anymore," Budanov said.

On pessimistic forecasts about Ukraine

The head of Defense Intelligence asserts that he "doesn't react" to the pessimistic moods of some West representatives who talk about "Ukraine possibly losing the war this year."

"If we are talking about scenarios being developed - in any case, there are, let's say, positive scenarios for one side and negative scenarios for the other side. There is no grounds to believe in Ukraine's strategic defeat. If we say that everything will go badly - well, it's quite understandable that the result will be bad. But if changes for the better arise - and there are reasons to believe that they will," Budanov believes.

On Russian 'successes' and missile attacks

At the same time, Budanov acknowledges that Russian forces had a real success in Avdiivka. "It needs to be acknowledged. It's a fact. They achieved it. Everything else - well, it's too early to talk about," Budanov said.

When asked about the recent attacks on Ukrainian energy, he contrasted them with positive practical strikes on Russian objects. But he notes that wars are not solved by strikes alone.

"The question of war is not solved by attacks - as in ancient times until a person with a flag steps onto the territory - nothing will change. Whether you send a million drones there or put a hundred thousand artillery shells there - until a person steps in, nothing will happen," Budanov said.

About the number of missiles in Russia, he says that the enemy has been accumulating them. Especially the maritime component of missiles, and operational-tactical missile armaments, but so far, they are not being actively used.

"And the missiles of the aviation component - well, they have again seriously depleted their reserves. Even the latest strike? Again, let's consider today - only two strategic bombers carried out strikes. Not because they don't have targets, but because they are saving a bit. Yes, they can deliver several more serious strikes, but not indefinitely," Budanov explained.

According to him, circumventing sanctions allows the aggressor country to manufacture such armaments. As for assistance from China, intelligence, as before, does not see evidence of ready-made weapons being transferred from Beijing to Moscow.

On difficult period for Ukraine

As BBC reports, the spy chief does not regret his previous statement that active combat operations would end by the end of 2022, as he explains the failure of that forecast by changing circumstances: "These are real-time forecasts. If something turns out a little differently - sorry, it affects things."

According to the intelligence's assessments, Ukraine faces a quite difficult situation soon.

"But it's not catastrophic, one also needs to understand. Armageddon won't happen, as many are starting to say now. But there will be problems since mid-May," Budanov said.

He clarifies that "it is about everything": both the front lines and the internal political situation.

"It's a comprehensive approach because the Russians will use a comprehensive approach. They are conducting a comprehensive operation. We won't talk about this for long, but it will be a difficult period. Mid-May, early June," Budanov says.

'Russia is fighting with mobilized troops'

The head of Ukraine's intelligence acknowledges that the enemy's infantry equipment has definitely improved.

"The quality of the equipment? No, it has declined because there is little new equipment, it's lacking. It's all repaired, restored equipment from long-term storage of armaments. There's no point in talking about quality, and quality is not needed," Budanov said.

As for the quality of personnel, those who participated in the first wave of full-scale invasion in 2022 were true professionals, contract soldiers with combat experience.

"But over this time, there are almost none left. Russia is fighting with mobilized troops," Budanov said.

On ending war

As before, Budanov asserts that this war can be ended by returning to the borders of 1991.

"It (the war - ed.) will end. It will end with this (returning to the borders of 1991 - ed.). There will be a certain period of time for us - perhaps, a long one. Will there be a tense on the borders after this? There will be. But in fact, the war will end," he believes.

According to Budanov, the war could end even under the current military-political leadership in Russia.

"There will be attempts to do something again - yes, there will be. This is normal. This is absolutely normal. Russia wants to destroy us, we don't want to be destroyed. Our desires don't match, you understand? That's why this conflict will continue to appear, subside, reappear, and so on permanently. Look at our history. We've been making peace and waging war with the Russian Federation, the Russian Empire, the Principality of Moscow, and like throughout our lives. We won't be able to change the course of history in the future," Budanov added.

On Kyiv offensive

According to the head of intelligence, there is no threat of a repeat offensive on Kyiv, as before.

He said that such a scenario was and remains "baseless," and there are "absolutely no threats" as of now.

On Maidan-3 and its connection to prisoner swaps

Speaking about the Russian information campaign Maidan-3, Budanov says that it is still relevant, ongoing, and unfortunately progressing. According to him, one of the reasons for the recent slowdown in the prisoner exchange process is precisely this Russian operation and "everything else."

"Russia uses all possible factors to create social tension. And will continue to use them. At the same time (prisoner exchange -ed.), it has slowed down but not stopped. And we still break through and try in different ways. And we achieve results. And for this matter as well. But it's difficult, and Russia will continue to use this impact factor on our society," says Budanov.

On assassination attempts and poisoning of his wife

When asked how many assassination attempts have been made on him in total, Budanov responds that "at the same level" (around 10 attempts).

"Let's stick to the same (level). They are planning something now, but, like previous times, not everything will work out for them... It's in the interests of Russians, that's true. It's Russians, in the interests of Russians. They plan to involve people both here and there. It's normal, operational work for them," Budanov says.

As for the poisoning involving his wife, he promises that "there will be a response," hinting that "it won't be limited to arrests."

"What arrests? That's not serious. I never play these games. But she's my wife, so it won't go like this," Budanov stated, adding that the investigation is progressing.

Speaking about his wife's condition, he says it is "more or less normal." She has been stabilized, and most of the toxins have been removed.

At the same time, Budanov dismisses the idea that the actual target might have been him, not his wife.

"Did they make a mistake? You know, I don't even know cases like that. No, I understand their logic - my wife is very... She's all for me. And they correctly assessed her influence. But, as you can see, we have God with us, and nothing will happen," Budanov said.

On Telegram

The head of intelligence once again highlights that Telegram is a huge problem for Ukraine, but blocking channels can only temporarily solve the situation. In his opinion, registering Telegram channels could be a solution "to understand who is behind which media resource, and to Telegram already definitely acquire media status."

"There's no question of influence or pressure - it's not about that. If you want to express your position - which someone may not like, and that's normal in a democratic society - take responsibility. What are you afraid to say, who you are?" Budanov says.

When asked if it applies to anonymous channels, he says that, in his opinion, they are all anonymous.

Answering whether he uses this app himself, Budanov mentioned that he "looks through from time to time when certain events are happening," to understand how they are perceived by Russian society, to look at the results of intelligence operations, or resonant events that may have some impact.

The intelligence chief notes that this is an exception for him as the head of the agency because generally, intelligence personnel are strictly forbidden from having Telegram or other social media accounts.

New forecast

When asked to say what Ukrainians should expect this year, Budanov stated that the near future "will be difficult." But he made it clear - difficult and catastrophic are different things.

"We have been through difficult periods several times already, and we will get through this one, believe me. There will be nothing extraordinary. We know their plans in advance. How to react to them? We have responses to most of them. Yes, certain questions will be difficult for us to break, but we will find answers. As always, at the last moment, we'll come up with something," Budanov said and added, "Ukraine will not lose and Ukraine will not be ruined."