Ukrainian counteroffensive puts Putin in serious quandary
While Russia initially greeted the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast with peace and yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to “achieve the goals” of its intervention in Ukraine, some voices acknowledged that Kiev’s offensive had been crushed, outnumbered 8 to 1. For example, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who criticized the strategy of the Russian army. Yesterday he announced that elite units from the Chechen Republic had returned to the combat zone in Ukraine.
Kadyrov posted a video on his Telegram account showing Adam Delimkhanov, a Chechen deputy who heads the elite corps, surrounded by several militants. According to Kadyrov, the battalion took a breather after “liberating” several cities and has now returned to Kherson, Zaporozhye and Donetsk regions.
Toward this last region, one of two in Donbas, Ukrainian forces appear to be moving through Kharkiv. On Sunday, its commander-in-chief, Valery Zaluzny, assured that they had reclaimed 3,000 square kilometers from the Russians in a week, their biggest achievement in six months of conflict. These include the cities of Kupyansk and Izium, important logistical hubs for the Russians, from where Moscow “regrouped” its forces over the weekend to strengthen its position in Donetsk.
Yesterday, Kyiv forces announced that they had recaptured 20 cities in the last 24 hours. According to him, Ukrainian forces are also advancing south, where they have recaptured 500 square kilometers of territory in Kherson.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was unimpressed yesterday and assured that operations in Ukraine “are ongoing and will continue until the original objectives are achieved.” This is the first statement from the Russian president regarding the attack on Ukraine last week. When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what he called a “special military operation” on February 24, he declared that the goal was to protect Donbas and “denazify” and “demilitarize” Ukraine.
Many of Ukraine’s pro-Russian leaders acknowledged that “the situation is difficult”, but that control remains
The immovable position of the Kremlin contrasted with that of other political figures.
Vitaly Ganchev, a pro-Russian leader in the Kharkiv region, explained on a broadcast by Russian state channel Rossiya24 that Kyiv forces outnumber Russian forces by a ratio of 8 to 1. He added that Ukrainian forces had previously captured Russian-controlled cities. In the north of the region, near the border of the two countries and “about 5,000” citizens were moved to Russia. He said, “The situation is getting more complicated by the hour.
The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin, spoke in the same vein. “The situation is complex” because “the enemy is trying to damage critical and civilian infrastructure,” he said. Pushilin spoke of “massive bombardment” but Russian and pro-Russian forces “held their positions” and promised to keep the situation “under control”.
The pro-Russian leader added that Ukrainians had attacked the Russian-held town of Liman since May. Lyman is only 65 kilometers from Donetsk.
This acknowledgment of the situation came after more radical voices criticized the Russian military command for the Ukrainian offensive. Among them is Ramzan Kadyrov, head of Chechnya. “I am not a strategist like the Ministry of Defence. But it is clear that mistakes have been made. I think they will draw some conclusions,” he said in an audio message posted on Telegram on Sunday. “If there is no change in strategy today or tomorrow, I will be forced to talk to the leaders of the Ministry of Defense and the country’s leadership to explain the real situation on the ground,” he added.
Kadyrov criticized the “mistakes” of the Russian military and sent his elite corps to Ukraine
Kadyrov suggested that Putin may not know the real situation. That was denied yesterday by his press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, who assured Putin that he had been briefed on the “regrouping” of the Russian military. “The President is in 24-hour continuous communication with the Defense Minister and all military leaders,” he assured.
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