Putin’s problems aren’t just on the battlefield – Politico

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Ukraine’s defeat of the Russian army in the northeastern Kharkiv region is causing a political and military headache for President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin’s efforts to create a glowing propaganda narrative about its war in Ukraine are in tatters, as loyalist populist bloggers, think tanks, and even politicians begin asking uncomfortable questions about defeat on the front lines.

For now, their anger is directed exclusively at the Russian military high command, but Putin must still proceed with caution in the face of this unusual defection. If he fails to respond to complaints against his leaders, political pressure may build on his authoritarian regime.

On Sunday, Ramzan Kadyrov, the dissident and authoritarian leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, accused Moscow’s military leadership of making “mistakes” in the Kharkiv region, where Russian forces are located. Hastily pulled out From the strategically important town of Izyum and Kubyansk, a major railway junction near the border with Russia.

“Unless there are changes in the strategy for conducting the special military operation today or tomorrow, I will have to turn to the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, to the leadership of the country to explain the real situation on the ground,” he said in a recorded statement. An audio statement posted on his Telegram channel.

Kadyrov’s soldiers have a horrific reputation, with Ukrainians accusing them of war crimes in the town of Bucha early in the war and of filming Tik-Tok videos to promote their contrived heroes, but the Chechen leader is significant because he is personally loyal to Putin and has demonstrated a willingness to send troops into the war.

He is the highest profile figure to openly criticize the country’s top brass, but he is far from alone.

Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-linked political analyst and former parliamentarian for the ruling United Russia party, criticized Moscow’s anniversary celebrations on Saturday, with Putin somewhat surreal inaugurating a new giant Ferris wheel before a nightly fireworks display, much like Ukrainian news. The victories were spreading quickly.

The celebrations now look like a political mistake. The equivalent of the feast in the time of the plague. They are clearly [the Moscow authorities] You didn’t want to cancel it, so as not to cause panic,” He said Politician, who in previous years strongly supported the separatist movement in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine. “But the president’s involvement speaks more to the authorities’ confusion.”

he is too He said That the fireworks in Moscow “on the tragic day of a heavy military defeat for Russia” should have been canceled by authorities, citing the potential for damage to Putin’s reputation in the eyes of his constituents. “The government should not celebrate when people are sad.”

Sergei Mironov, leader of the “Just Russia” party, which supports the Kremlin, cautiously joined the criticism of the celebration.

he is urge Moscow authorities “postponed” fireworks “until victory” over Ukraine. “It will be respectable to those who on this day, armed with their own hands, risk their lives, defending the whole of Russia, and all its inhabitants thousands of kilometers from their homes.”

Destroyed armored vehicles scattered on the road in Balaklia, Kharkov region | Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, the anger of many Russian military bloggers was directed against the clumsy information tactics of the Russian Ministry of Defense, which refrained from making any comments about the situation in the Kharkiv region during the first days of the Ukraine counter-offensive.

The bloggers also strongly criticized the Russian authorities for their inability to ensure a proper withdrawal from the Kharkiv region for those residents who supported the Russian occupation, and wanted to leave the region for Russia before the rapid advance of Ukrainian forces.

Alexei Chadaev, a pro-Kremlin political think tank, believes that the Russian army “as a whole, as a structure, in its current form – to put it mildly – has limited suitability for modern warfare.”

“The main shortcomings lie not in the ability to gather manpower, supply, and weapons, not even in management as such, but in the level of strategic thinking, the quality of understanding the rhythm and logic of confrontation,” He said On Saturday, commenting on the defeat of Russia.

He added that the recent defeat of the Russian forces “has become more and more reminiscent” of the catastrophe that the Red Army of the Soviet Union faced in roughly the same area in World War II. Here the Germans launched Operation Fredericus, in which they dealt a heavy blow to the besieged Red Army and lost nearly a quarter of a million dead and wounded.

“Either we fight or we surrender, there is no third option. So let’s decide. But if you ask me, I support fighting.”

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