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How long can Russia keep fighting the war in Ukraine?

A soldier standing in the street
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A soldier standing in the street
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© FT montage: AP, Getty

When he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s original plan envisioned Russian forces capturing Kyiv within as little as three days.

Nearly a year later, Russia’s army is no closer to winning the war — and has even lost part of the territory that Putin attempted to annex last September.

Russia’s battlefield losses are so huge that western officials doubt it has the capacity to mount an offensive on the same scale again. Sanctions, meanwhile, have hurt Russia’s economy and have cut it off from supply chains crucial to sustaining Putin’s war machine.

But despite the dire state of Russia’s forces and the years-long quagmire its economy faces, Putin has shown no indication he intends to scale back his goals or seek a way out of the war, insisting Russia’s victory is “inevitable” and its “goals will be met in full”.

To assess how long Russia can sustain its war efforts, the FT examined four key areas Putin must draw on: the forces on the battlefield; Russia’s stock of munitions; the Kremlin’s economic war chest; and ordinary Russians’ feelings about the war.

The bottom line: Putin’s war machine is under enormous pressure and could struggle to mount the decisive, new offensives that he has promised. But Russia has the resources to keep fighting in Ukraine for some time to come.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023. All rights reserved.
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