As the Ukrainian flag was raised in one community after another over the last several days, one question came into focus: how does the Kremlin respond?
Prominent media figures in Russia are trying to spin this week’s calamity as a planned operation. Television host Vladimir Soloviev reposted a Telegram commentary that insisted the “enemy, buying into an easy advance on a given sector of the front, drives into a trap.”
“Currently, Russian units are purposefully regrouping,” the commentary added, even though there is little sign of that.
A pro-Putin blogger who goes by the name Kholmogorov reposted a scathing account by the Partizan Telegram channel from the front lines, which accused the Russian authorities of abandoning the troops.
“The soldiers were on foot with one machine gun and a sack. Abandoned by the command, not knowing the way, they walked at random,” the post said.
The poster, who describes himself as a Russian Orthodox nationalist, says that while hatred of the enemy grows, “hatred of the government and command is growing even more.”
Adding his own thoughts, Kholmogorov said: “Lord, save the Russian soldiers from blows from the front and even more from blows in the back.”
The Russian military can still bring considerable power to bear in terms of its rocket, artillery and missile forces. But despite one shuffle of the high command already, its ground operations seem poorly organized, with little autonomy devolved to commanders. The last week has laid bare issues of motivation and leadership.
Russian bloggers who have supported the offensive say a radical rethink is required. One commented: “A change of approach to the war in Ukraine is needed. Mobilization of the economy and industry. Creation of a political control center for war.”