Even as the Kremlin tried to absorb parts of Ukraine into a sharp escalation of the conflict, the Russian military suffered further defeats that exposed its deep-seated problems on the battlefield and opened up divisions at the top. of the Russian government.
The setbacks severely damaged the image of a strong Russian military and added to tensions surrounding an ill-planned mobilization. They have also fueled fighting between Kremlin insiders and left Russian President Vladimir Putin increasingly cornered.
Here’s a look at the latest Russian losses, some of the reasons behind them, and the potential consequences.
CHAIN OF DEFEAT TO THE NORTHEAST, TO THE SOUTH
Relying on weapons supplied by the West, Ukraine continued last month’s gains in the northeast Kharkiv region by pushing deeper into occupied areas and forcing Russian troops to withdraw from the town of Lyman, a key logistics hub.
The Ukrainian army also launched a major counter-offensive in the south, capturing a series of villages on the west bank of the Dnieper and advancing towards the city of Kherson.
Ukrainian gains in the Kherson region followed relentless strikes on the two main crossing points on the Dnieper which rendered them unusable and forced Russian troops on the west bank of the Dnieper to rely exclusively on pontoons, which were also hit several times by the Ukrainians.
Phillips P. O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, predicted more Russian failures at Kherson, noting that it’s “hard to stabilize a line when your logistics are stretched, your troops are exhausted and your opponent is much, much smarter.
Pressed against the wide river and suffering from severe supply shortages, Russian troops face imminent defeat that could pave the way for a possible Ukrainian push to regain control of the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
MILITARY SHORTAGES AND COMMAND TROOPS
Military journalists and bloggers embedded with Russian troops in Ukraine painted a grim picture of an ill-equipped and poorly organized force under an incompetent command.
As the war enters its eighth month, the Russian military suffers from severe personnel shortages, lack of coordination between units and unstable supply lines.
Many Russian units also have low morale, a depressed mood which contrasts sharply with well-motivated Ukrainian forces.
Unlike the Ukrainian military, which relied on intelligence data provided by the United States and its NATO allies to select and strike targets, the Russian military has been plagued by poor intelligence.
When Russian intelligence spots a Ukrainian target, the military engages in a long process of obtaining permission to strike it, which often drags on until the target disappears.
Russian war correspondents particularly lamented the shortage of drones and noted that drones supplied by Iran were not used to maximum effectiveness due to poor target selection.
KREMLIN CALLS FOR MORE TROOPS, SIDE TERRITORY
Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to the Ukrainian counteroffensive by ordering a partial military mobilization, which aims to muster at least 300,000 reservists to bolster forces along Ukraine’s 1,000 kilometer front line.
At the start of the invasion, Ukraine declared a massive mobilization, with the aim of forming an army of one million. Up to that time, Russia had attempted to win the war with a small contingent of volunteer soldiers. The United States estimated the initial invasion force at 200,000, and some Western estimates put Russian losses at 80,000 dead, wounded, and captured.
As warmongering circles in Moscow hailed the mobilization as long overdue, hundreds of thousands of Russian men fled abroad to avoid recruitment, and protests erupted across the country, raising new challenges for the Kremlin.
New recruits have posted images showing them being forced to sleep on the ground or even in the open air. Some said they were given rusty weapons and told to buy medical kits and other basic supplies themselves. In tacit acknowledgment of supply problems, Putin sacked a deputy defense minister in charge of military logistics.
Mobilization offers no miracle solution to Russia’s military problems. It will take new recruits months to train and form combat-ready units.
Putin then upped the ante by abruptly annexing occupied parts of Ukraine and declaring his readiness to use “all available means” to protect them, a stark reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
CRACKS OPEN AT THE TOP
In an unprecedented sign of infighting in the upper echelons of government, Kremlin-backed Chechnya regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov scathingly criticized senior military brass, accusing them of incompetence and nepotism.
Kadyrov blamed Colonel General Alexander Lapin for failing to secure supplies and reinforcements for his troops which led to their retreat from Lyman. He said the general deserved to be stripped of his rank and sent to the front as a soldier to “wash away his shame with his blood”.
Kadyrov also directly accused Russia’s top military officer, General Valery Gerasimov, of covering up Lapin’s mistakes – a pointed attack that fueled speculation that the Chechen leader may have forged an alliance with other warmongering members of the Russian elite against the senior military leadership.
In a candid statement, Kadyrov also urged the Kremlin to consider using low-yield nuclear weapons against Ukraine to turn the tide of the war, a call that appeared to reflect the idea’s growing popularity among global hawks. Kremlin.
In a show of continued support for Kadyrov, Putin promoted him to colonel general on his birthday, a move that is sure to irritate the top brass. And while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Kadyrov’s statement too emotional, he highly praised the Chechen leader’s role in the fighting and the valor of his troops.
In another sign of escalating dissent at the top, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a millionaire businessman nicknamed “Putin’s boss”, lashed out at the governor of St. Petersburg, blaming his failure to provide assistance to the private security company Wagner from Prigozhin is tantamount to supporting Ukraine.
Other members of Russia’s elite offered quick support to Kadyrov and Prigozhin, who increasingly served as mouthpieces for Moscow’s warmongering circles.
Retired Lt. Gen. Andrei Gurulev, a senior member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, strongly backed the Chechen leader, saying Russia’s defeat in Lyman was rooted in senior brass’s desire to bring only good news to Cheese fries.
“It’s a problem of total lies and top-down positive reporting,” he said.