December 10, 2022

Putin's military chief Shoigu under fire as Russia withdraws from Ukraine

Putin’s military chief Shoigu under fire as Russia withdraws from Ukraine

Who is to blame? Russia’s failures in Ukraine?

after, after Weeks of setbacks on the battlefieldcriticism Moscow Military Command had stormed into the open – adding to the sense of domestic discontent It poses a rare challenge to the Kremlin.

A growing chorus of voices across state media have expressed their displeasure with the lack of progress in the war in recent days, while nationalist figures have increased pressure in the wake of the breakthroughs by Kyiv’s forces in the south and east. The search for a scapegoat appears to have settled on Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a close aide to the man who launched the unilateral invasion: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

No one has yet dared point an accusing finger at Putin himself, but there have been increasing stabs at his Defense Ministry and the old ally who heads it, putting pressure on the Russian leader to make a decisive change before it’s too late to turn things around. around the battlefield.

“Shoigu’s job now is to be Putin’s bulletproof vest,” Mark Galeotti, who heads up Mayak Intelligence a consultancy focused on Russia, told NBC News. “For now, its main value is precisely that it absorbs criticism, which otherwise would inevitably lead Putin’s way.”

Speaking about Russia’s retreat in the crucial southern Kherson region on Thursday, the deputy head of the Russia-installed regional administration, in a stunning public address, despised Moscow’s “military leaders who lack talent.”

“A lot of people say that if they were the Minister of Defense, and they let things get into this situation, they would shoot themselves,” Kirill Strimosov He said In a video posted on the messaging app Telegram, Shoigu is not mentioned by name.

One of Russia’s main propagandists, Vladimir Solovyev – who was a staunch supporter of the war but recently admitted that Russia Military conflict and warns fans not to expect ‘good news’ for some time – too Unleash the rage In Shoigu on Thursday, without calling him directly.

He suggested that “moving to another job” could be one way to address the Defense Department’s failures.

Appointed as Minister of Defense in 2012, Shoigu, 67, served as Minister of Emergency Situations, often sent to deal with natural disasters and security emergencies, which earned him the approval of the public.

Although not a professional soldier, he is one of Putin’s closest allies and has a reputation as a loyal “assistant” to the Russian leader. It was often in the picture Together with the Russian president on hunting and fishing trips to Siberia, to show the closeness of their friendship.

But he has kept a low profile since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, largely keeping a low profile and sparking rumors of fallout between the two.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Kremlin in Moscow
With the withdrawal of Russian forces, its military leadership is under fire.Mikhail Klementev / Sputnik via AP . File

As Russian forces advance further in retreat in Ukraine, Shoigu’s leadership and ministry are increasingly criticized for downplaying the situation on the front lines.

“It’s time to stop lying,” the head of the Russian parliament’s defense committee, Andrei Kartapolov, said this week, accusing the ministry of covering up bad news from Ukraine.

The ministry has also been in the crosshairs of how it handles Putin’s “partial mobilization,” with widespread reports that those unfit for duty are being recalled and newly enlisted soldiers face inadequate conditions, training and equipment.

However, such scathing public reprimands of the country’s leadership are extremely rare in Putin’s Russia, where any dissent is prohibited, especially against those allied with the Kremlin.

There are signs that at least some of the criticism may boil down to tensions within Russia’s ruling elite.