aAfter Russia’s chaotic retreat in Kherson — less than a week after Vladimir Putin illegally annexed the Ukrainian province along with three others — the region’s Moscow-appointed governor, Kirill Strimosov, sought to calm the mood.
Strimosov said Wednesday that the withdrawal, far from being defeated, was a “tactical ‘regrouping’ of a retaliatory strike.”
His comments – among the first public acknowledgments of Russia’s retreat in Kherson – attempted to mask what many supporters of the war are now saying: the situation is the worst the Russian army has found itself in since the invasion began seven months ago. .
“My friends, I know that you are waiting for me to comment on the situation. But I really do not know what to tell you. The retreat … disastrous,” Roman Sabunkov, a prominent war correspondent, wrote on his Telegram channel, describing his desperation for the withdrawal in Kherson.
The extent of Russia’s decline remains unclear at the moment. “The Ukrainian army is making very fast and powerful moves in the south of our country,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during his evening address on Tuesday. He named eight small towns in Kherson that were recently restored.
When journalists were asked on Wednesday whether there was a contradiction between the rhetoric of Russian annexation and the reality on the ground, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no contradiction at all. The territory “will be with Russia forever and will be returned,” he added.
However, this trust cannot be felt among pro-war military bloggers and journalists, An increasingly vociferous group with front-line contacts and millions of readers Which moved to criticize the Kremlin for failing to achieve its goals.
They paint a bleak picture of declining Russian morale, blaming a lack of rotation and army fatigue for the failures in southern Ukraine.
Alexander Coats, a pro-Kremlin journalist who travels with the Russian military, wrote on Tuesday.
“We don’t have enough people… Fatigue has started… There is no longer any strength left to hold the conquered territories.”
in a day Putin announced last month the so-called “partial mobilization”The contracts of combat soldiers in Ukraine were also automatically extended indefinitely. This decision has prevented many of those who have been fighting since February from getting out of the war.
“We receive hundreds of requests every day from soldiers who want to find a way to cancel their contracts,” said one military lawyer, who asked not to be identified, fearing a violation of Russian laws criminalizing “false” news about the military.
Most soldiers had no idea they were going to Ukraine when the war began. They hoped to get out once their contracts expired. Now that is simply no longer possible.”
Russia surrenders to Lymana strategically important city in the north of the Donetsk region, has already led to rare public criticism of the military high command by many high-ranking officials.
I don’t know what the Ministry of Defense reports [Putin]”But in my personal opinion, more drastic measures must be taken,” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wrote.
The Russian military sought to downplay its Saturday withdrawal from Lyman as a minor military setback in which it caused heavy casualties among Ukrainian forces in the fight for the city.
But according to Investigation By BBC News Russia, one of Russia’s most elite military intelligence units suffered heavy losses during that withdrawal. The BBC Service reported that the 3rd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade has now lost up to three-quarters of its expeditionary force since the start of the war.
Recent military failures, which seem too big to ignore, have now also spread to Russian television screens.
“Why do we advance meter after meter when they advance village after village?” Olga Skabieva, the country’s largest state TV presenter, angrily asked Andrei Maroshko, Russia’s designated official in Luhansk, in a recent broadcast.
The Kremlin hopes that the first mobilization campaign announced last month will soon be able to stem the losses.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that 200,000 men have already been mobilized, and they are present in 80 training grounds and six training centers across Russia.
The Ministry of Defense also released fascinating videos of conscripts being trained by soldiers, accompanied by other clips showing their arrival in Russian-controlled areas of Luhansk where they were greeted by jubilant locals.
But government propaganda Campaign This did not prevent the mobilization campaign from creating chaos and anger throughout Russia. This anger increased after videos emerged showing dozens of men in poor conditions in training centers while waiting to be sent to Ukraine.
Pavel Chekhov, one of Russia’s leading human rights lawyers, said on Tuesday that at least six conscripts had died in training centers since the mobilization began. One of the recruits reportedly killed himself.
In the most embarrassing video clip yet of the Kremlin, a group of mobilized soldiers is seen from the Siberian region of Omsk attractive To the authorities in exchange for the salaries promised by the government to participate in the war. “We are ready to go. One of them said.
“Amateur organizer. Wannabe beer evangelist. General web fan. Certified internet ninja. Avid reader.”