Moscow has said it will drastically cut back military activity near Kyiv and Chernihiv, as peace talks between Russia and Ukraine continue. However this statement has been met with scepticism by the West, with the US and UK both saying it should be treated with caution. Chernihiv Governor Viacheslav Chaus also claimed the fighting has not let up there, despite Russia’s pledge.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin says there is no sign of a breakthrough in the continuing negotiations between the two countries.
Russia spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia had not noticed “anything really promising”, though welcomed Kyiv setting out its demands for an end to the conflict.
Russia’s army has been plagued with equipment faults and strategic errors since they launched their invasion of Ukraine last month.
Mr Connolly, who is a former BBC Moscow correspondent, claimed that Putin needs a “short war” due to Russia’s “military weakness”.
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Speaking to Express.co.uk Mr Connolly said: “Putin needs a short war, I think.
“Because of the exposure of Russian military weaknesses, because he would not be able to occupy Ukraine, I think ‒ that’s beyond Russia’s military capacity.
“So he will need an exit strategy from this, but he has the luxury of all autocrats ‒ he doesn’t have any short term pressures from his own people that he needs to recognise or worry about.”
The West inflicted severe sanctions on Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine, which Putin labelled an “economic blitzkrieg”.
“Ukraine is the biggest country in Europe [except Russia]. It has a population of 40 million, many of whom are going to be immensely hostile to Russian occupation.
“Occupation is expensive and difficult and uses colossal amounts of manpower and costs a lot of money.
“I don’t think Russia has that kind of option.”
Last week the Kremlin said it would refocus its military offensive on the Donbas.
The region, in the east of Ukraine, contains the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, where Putin has tried to install puppet states.
But as negotiations continue, Mr Connolly warned that Ukrainians may have to “pay an enormous price” for peace, in the form of the country’s easterly region.
Mr Connolly said: “I think we’re in for a period of real brutality, because to put pressure on Ukrainians in negotiations, I think Russians will bombard Ukrainian civilian populations.
“I fear that there are dark times coming for some Ukrainian cities.
“It’s possible that Ukraine stepping back from its NATO ambitions will be a helpful condition.
“I think Russia might settle for taking a huge slice of eastern Ukrainian territory and giving itself a land connection to the Crimea and the Black Sea.
“But that would be an enormous price to ask the Ukrainians to pay, and would be rewarding the Russians with territory for starting a war of aggression.
“But there is a possible landing point there, and as I say I don’t think the Russians have the capacity to occupy Ukraine.”