Russia Did Not Expect Ukraine to Fight This Hard, Western Officials Say

“They've stirred up a hornet's nest and they've also underestimated the capacity of the Ukrainians to fight,” said one official.
A civilian volunteer registers in Kyiv. PHOTO: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Russia has underestimated and miscalculated the strength of Ukraine’s opposition, Western officials have said. 

The country’s lack of preparation for Ukrainian resistance – which has seen unarmed civilians taking on moving Russian vehicles, engaging in hand-to-hand combat, and telling Russian warships to “go fuck” themselves – has disrupted Russia’s advance and has likely resulted in higher than expected deaths. 


“It's clear to me that from a Russian perspective, there have been some challenges,” a Western official said on Monday evening during a security briefing. “They've stirred up a hornet's nest and they've also underestimated the capacity of the Ukrainians to fight.”

Officials say Ukraine’s “smarter use of force,” such as dispersing military and ambushing Russian forces as they advance, or denying Russians access to crucial bridges, has been effective in disrupting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initial military plan.

“Russia may have miscalculated and underestimated the strength of the military opposition,” officials said.

It comes after Western military sources told VICE News that their opinion of Russia's military abilities had gone down since the war began.

As Ukraine's resistance continues to interfere with Russia’s progress through the country, there is a worry this could lead to more civilian casualties. 

“I fear that the way in which Russia is frustrated in achieving [its plan] on

the ground is leading to the use of more indiscriminate fires,” said Western officials. “As a consequence, we're going to see an increase in civilian casualties.”

Five days after Russia’s invasion, shelling has increased across the country. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv came under aggressive fire, with its government building bombed in a symbolic attack. Outside Kyiv, the country's capital, a 40km Russian convoy approaches.

As the war rages on, the death toll has increased, though official numbers have not been confirmed. More than 70 Ukrainian soldiers are reported to have been killed in a Russian attack this morning on a base in Okhtyrka, near Kharkiv. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday around 3,500 Russian troops have been killed, though Western officials stress this number is “incredibly difficult to verify.”