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US Intel Chief Optimistic for Ukraine  12/04 10:35


   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- The head of U.S. intelligence says fighting in 
Russia's war in Ukraine is running at a "reduced tempo" and suggests Ukrainian 
forces could have brighter prospects in coming months.

   Avril Haines alluded to past allegations by some that Russian President 
Vladimir Putin's advisers could be shielding him from bad news -- for Russia -- 
about war developments, and said he "is becoming more informed of the 
challenges that the military faces in Russia."

   "But it's still not clear to us that he has a full picture of at this stage 
of just how challenged they are," the U.S. director of national intelligence 
said Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

   Looking ahead, Haines said, "honestly we're seeing a kind of a reduced tempo 
already of the conflict" and her team expects that both sides will look to 
refit, resupply, and reconstitute for a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in 
the spring.

   "But we actually have a fair amount of skepticism as to whether or not the 
Russians will be in fact prepared to do that," she said. "And I think more 
optimistically for the Ukrainians in that timeframe."

   On Sunday, the British Ministry of Defense, in its latest intelligence 
estimate, pointed to new signs from an independent Russian media outlet that 
public support in Russia for the military campaign was "falling significantly."

   Meduza said it obtained a recent confidential opinion survey conducted by 
the Federal Protection Service, which is in charge of guarding the Kremlin and 
providing security to top government officials.

   The survey, commissioned by the Kremlin, found that 55% of respondents 
backed peace talks with Ukraine while 25% wanted the war to go on. The report 
didn't mention the margin of error.

   Levada Center, Russia's top independent pollster, found in a similar poll 
carried out in November poll that 53% of respondents supported peace talks, 41% 
spoke in favor of continuing the fight, and 6% were undecided. That poll of 
1,600 people had a margin of error of no more than 3.4 percent.

   The British Defense Ministry noted that "despite the Russian authorities' 
efforts to enforce pervasive control of the information environment, the 
conflict has become increasingly tangible for many Russians since the September 
2022 'partial mobilization.'"

   "With Russia unlikely to achieve major battlefield successes in the next 
several months, maintaining even tacit approval of the war amongst the 
population is likely to be increasingly difficult for the Kremlin," it said.

   In recent weeks, Russia's military focus has been on striking Ukrainian 
infrastructure and pressing an offensive in the east, near the town of Bakhmut, 
while shelling sites in the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces liberated 
last month after an 8-month Russian occupation.

   In his nightly address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy 
lashed out at Western efforts to crimp Russia's crucial oil industry, a key 
source of funds for Putin's war machine, saying their $60-per-barrel price cap 
on imports of Russian oil was insufficient.

   "It is not a serious decision to set such a limit for Russian prices, which 
is quite comfortable for the budget of the terrorist state," Zelenskyy said, 
referring to Russia. He said the $60-per-barrel level would still allow Russia 
to bring in $100 billion in revenues per year.

   "This money will go not only to the war and not only to further sponsorship 
by Russia of other terrorist regimes and organisations. This money will be used 
for further destabilisation of those countries that are now trying to avoid 
serious decisions," Zelenskyy said.

   Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, the United States and the 27-nation 
European Union agreed Friday to cap what they would pay for Russian oil at $60 
per barrel. The limit is set to take effect Monday, along with an EU embargo on 
Russian oil shipped by sea.

   Russian authorities have rejected the price cap and threatened Saturday to 
stop supplying the nations that endorsed it.

   In yet another show of Western support for Ukraine's efforts to battle back 
Russian forces and cope with fallout from the war, U.S. Under Secretary of 
State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland on Saturday visited the operations 
of a Ukrainian aid group that provides support for internally displaced people 
in Ukraine, among her other visits with top Ukrainian officials.

   Nuland assembled dolls out of yarn in the blue-and-yellow colors of 
Ukraine's flag with youngsters from regions including northeastern Kharkiv, 
southern Kherson, and eastern Donetsk.

   "This is psychological support for them at an absolutely crucial time," 
Nuland said.

   "As President Putin knows best, this war could stop today, if he chose to 
stop it and withdrew his forces -- and then negotiations can begin," she added.

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