Vladimir Putin still has plans to capture ‘most of Ukraine’ despite huge losses by Russian troops.
US intelligence agencies believe the Kremlin leader plans to make slow, but persistent, gains of territory.
Low morale and mounting deaths have weakened Moscow’s fighters, but the situation on the ground is still ‘very grim’.
According to Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence, the war in Ukraine could linger for a long time.
While Putin refocused his efforts on the Donbas region in March and April, she says his original aims still remain.
But the 69-year-old will unlikely achieve his goals anytime soon, she added.
Ms Haines told a US Commerce Department Conference: ‘We perceive a disconnect between Putin’s near-term military objectives in this area and his military’s capacity, a kind of mismatch between his ambitions and what the military is able to accomplish.
She added the invasion would continue ‘for an extended period of time’ and that on the ground in Ukraine ‘the picture remains pretty grim.’
The speech marked her first public comments by the intelligence chief since May.
While Putin’s aim remain the same as they did at the start of the conflict, she added that Russia was still only making ‘incremental gains, with no breakthrough’.
Troops have been making their way through the Donbas region, recently taking control of the city of Severodonetsk.
But progress has been slow in the face of Ukrainian resistance.
Ms Haines’ comments came after a withdrawal of Russian troops from Snake Island, off the coast of Ukraine.
The island, which Russia occupied on the first day of its invasion, achieved worldwide fame when border guards stationed there rejected calls to surrender.
Footage had showed the Ukrainian soldiers telling sailors aboard the Moskva warship to ‘go f**k yourself’ over a loudspeaker.
Russia today said it has withdrawn from Snake Island off Ukraine’s Black Sea coast in what it calls a ‘gesture of goodwill’.
The country’s defence ministry claimed the move shows Moscow is not impeding United Nations efforts to organise a humanitarian corridor to export Ukrainian agricultural products.
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