by Katherine Bayford
Monday, 12
September 2022
Analysis
16:00

Putin’s friends start voicing dissent

Defeat in Kharkiv has sparked discontent among normally deferential generals
by Katherine Bayford
“Conservative allies or supporters of the invasion are becoming vocally dissatisfied with its management” (Photo by OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Internal tensions are surfacing in Russia after the military leadership of the country appeared to have been unprepared for the speed and success of the Ukrainian north-east counteroffensive. Since Wednesday, Ukraine has recaptured territory more than double the size of Greater London. The Ukrainian flag has been raised in Kupiansk, where rail lines have been supplying logistics to the Russian army. Russian forces have been forced to prioritise emergency defensive actions, and troop morale and trust in military leadership is likely to have degraded significantly. The speed of the counteroffensive has resulted in such a rapid retreat of Russian troops that withdrawing occupying forces have left ammunition and equipment behind.

The Kremlin has thus far been successful in its suppression of internal critics of the invasion. But with increasing claims of such operational and strategic failure, more and more conservative allies or supporters of the invasion are becoming vocally dissatisfied with its management. 

The Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, never one to hold his tongue, has publicly voiced displeasure with the state of military operations in the region: “They have made mistakes and I think they will draw the necessary conclusions,” Kadyrov posted to his Telegram channel on Sunday. “If today or tomorrow no changes in strategy are made, I will be forced to speak with the leadership of the defence ministry and the leadership of the country to explain the real situation on the ground to them.”

Chechen units have been instrumental in the invasion of Ukraine, and Kadyrov is acutely aware of the Kremlin’s need to retain his loyalty. Moscow allows the Chechen leader an atypical degree of independence in return for military and political loyalty — but Kadyrov remains a somewhat loose cannon, especially on messaging.

Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of the pro-Russian Vostok Battalion formed during the 2014 insurgency in Donbas, has also been publicly critical of the government for having “no effective system of reaction” to the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Khodakovsky has complained that the Russian military has punished these units for internal disagreements by cutting off ammunition and other crucial supplies.

“When the ‘alternative army’ does not agree with the [Russian] army’s approaches and holds their ground […] the army squeezes resources in retaliation,” he wrote on his Telegram. “Our battalion, for example, has not received supplies from the army for more than three weeks and lives only on reserves. Of course, one could say that we should put everyone under one command — and the problem is over — but no: the army’s approaches are often so specific that there is little desire to pile everyone into one fire and burn them all.”

Domestically and internationally, people are asking whether the Russian military will repeat its mistakes. Putin will be becoming increasingly aware of the fact that, should Russia suffer any more grievous failures, the loyalty necessary to achieving any success in Ukraine may disappear into the ether. It was reported today that he has already sacked the general responsible for the Kharkiv rout, who had only been in the role for sixteen days. If Putin finds himself at a crossroads, will he be more inclined to retreat and suffer that humiliation, or extend the war effort and risk exacerbating internal dissent?

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Barakuda Barakuda
Barakuda Barakuda
14 days ago

Carnivorous Vultures Or Demons Of War?
You are forgers of lies, ye are all politicians of no value. We were under the thumbs of the Bolsheviks for decades and threw them out. Protests erupt across World over Gov’t Russian tyranny. Now you will feel on your own skin how we suffered for decades because of you. Leave Ukraine alone, because in a moment you will actually be on the brink of an abyss. People like Ukrainians people never give up!!! This is the end of Russia as we know it.!!! Putin and his gang of weak criminal thieves are an embarrassment to humanity.

martin logan
martin logan
14 days ago

I suspect Putin’s position is far less stable than appears.
The liberals hate him for his years of oppression, while the psycho-nationalists hate him for his manifest incompetence. He has ingeniously made most other Russians so passive that quite small groups now can take over, a la 1917.
It’s very doubtful he’ll be here next year.
Or even next week.
The only question now is whether Russia survives intact. With each day this becomes less and less likely.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
13 days ago
Reply to  martin logan

And now Azerbaijan has restarted their war with Armenia – with the latter pleading for Russian help again after being well beaten last time.
Will Georgia and Moldova take the opportunity to get their territories back?
And, it wouldn’t take much to tip Belarus over – they were on the brink of a popular revolution a few years ago, so Ukraine could try their very own ‘special military operation’ to help them over it.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
15 days ago

Rumours of the Russian army’s or state’s imminent implosion have certainly turned out to be exaggerated before, but this does sound like a pretty hefty reversal for them.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
14 days ago

Just to update, Ukraine has liberated an area twice the size of Cornwall, not twice the size of Greater London. And I understand that’s well out of date too, as I’ve seen the figure of 3000 sq kilometers which in real money is over 1000 sq miles.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
13 days ago

Hmmm…..how about running a sweep on how long Putin will last after this humiliation? Will he still be around by
: the time of the Queen’s funeral?
: loss of Kherson?

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
13 days ago

Defeat is a rather strong word.

James 0
James 0
15 days ago

keep up people, the Russians are rolling up the risible ukies plus their nato handlers as we type.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
15 days ago
Reply to  James 0

You don’t even believe this yourself. You just think that countering what you see as the mainstream narrative will make you seem more interesting than you actually are.

martin logan
martin logan
14 days ago
Reply to  James 0

Given that the Russian regular army has essentially been obliterated, I find that quite amusing.

Matty D
Matty D
15 days ago

I do wonder what the average unHerd reader thinks of the rout of Russia in Ukraine. I suspect they are not very happy.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
15 days ago
Reply to  Matty D

What makes you say that? And what is the “average unHerd” reader? There are divisions on this site; personally I am delighted with what has happened, but I’m counting no chickens. There are many on this site who oppose the intervention of the US, EU, UK, (not me) but that doesn’t mean that they support Mr Putin or his actions.

Last edited 15 days ago by Linda Hutchinson
Matt M
Matt M
15 days ago

Nor me! I’m delighted about any Russian reverses and am very proud of Britain leading the charge.

Aaron James
Aaron James
15 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

I assume you have a recession proof job, and a government pension.

martin logan
martin logan
14 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

No, we just don’t want to freeze this winter. The impending collapse of Putin’s regime will avoid that.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
13 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

You may not value human rights Aaron, but I certainly think it’s worth some inconvenience to stop genocidal dictators.
UK jobless rate is at its lowest since 1974 by the way.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
15 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Same here.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
14 days ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Me too.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
10 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Same here

Aaron James
Aaron James
15 days ago
Reply to  Matty D

I think I am the average Unherd reader, even if no one else believes it… So here is my question regarding how one should feel..

1) Has this sped up the process of return to normal trade and commerce?

Because the disruption caused by this conflict on the heels of the insanely self destructive covid Plandemic responce may well plunge the globe into a Great Depression, causing many millions of deaths, and billions slipping into desperate poverty. And naturally Pensions and savings in the West all lost to inflation and recession crashing the Equity markets and ‘Real Interest’ staying about 8% Negative….

If you feel this has hastened the end of conflict (which means ignoring all Russian history) then it is good. If not, then it is bad, and Ukraine continues as the money pit sucking the entire world economy into it…

martin logan
martin logan
14 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Europe would be in far worse shape with Russia having a choke-hold on our energy, and forcing us to rearm, a la the Cold War.
A quick Ukrainian victory is the only sure way to avoid the problems you highlinght.
And given that Russian history in the last 2 centuries has seen far more military disasters than triumphs (1855, 1904, 1917, 1989), I can only conclude you have zero knowledge of that nation’s past.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
10 days ago
Reply to  martin logan

tbh you could put 1941 in that list and most of 1942 as well

Peter B
Peter B
14 days ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Think what you like. But the average UnHerd reader is not – in my experience – a delusional fool.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
13 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Lovely riposte!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
15 days ago
Reply to  Matty D

Weird comment.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
14 days ago
Reply to  Matty D

Whatever readers emotional response to Russia defeat may be, it boils my blood when the FT report on the impact of energy price increases on farmers and blames it on the invasion of Ukraine; the mismanagement of our energy utilities predates the invasion of Ukraine.

James B
James B
14 days ago
Reply to  Matty D

How lucky we are to have Matty D., answering for us all. Personally, I am thrilled and only a pathological idiot could possibly think otherwise. Unless, of course, our scribe is pro-invasion?