Defeat? After A Shocking Loss In Ukraine, Russian Nationalists Are Furious
- Ukraine has called its quick advance a turning point in the 6-month-old war because it caused thousands of Russian soldiers to flee, leaving behind their weapons and supplies.
- The leader of the opposition Just Russia party, Sergei Mironov, who is loyal to Putin, said on Twitter that a holiday fireworks show should be cancelled because of the military situation.
On Sunday, angry Russian nationalists demanded that President Vladimir Putin make changes right away to make sure that Russia wins the Ukraine war in the end. This was a day after Moscow was forced to give up its main bastion in northeastern Ukraine.
The quick fall of Izium in the province of Kharkiv was Russia’s worst military loss since March, when its troops were forced to leave the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
On Saturday, as Russian forces left town after town, Putin opened Europe’s biggest ferris wheel in a park in Moscow, and fireworks went off over Red Square to celebrate the city’s founding in 1147.
In an 11-minute voice message on the messaging app Telegram, Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya and a Putin ally whose troops have been at the front of the campaign in Ukraine, said that the loss of Izium, a key supply hub, didn’t matter.
But he admitted that things were not going as planned.
“If changes aren’t made to how the special military operation is being run today or tomorrow, I will have to go to the country’s leaders and explain the situation on the ground,” Kadyrov said.
Some pro-war commentators and Russian nationalists on social media were very angry that Moscow didn’t say much about the defeat or explain what happened in northeastern Ukraine.
As the defeats happened, the Russian defence ministry posted video on Friday of what it said were troops being sent to the Kharkiv region.
Sunday, the defence ministry said that Russian troops had used airborne troops, missiles, and artillery to attack Ukrainian positions in the area.
Moscow is silent
As of noon on Sunday, neither Putin, who is in charge of all of Russia’s armed forces, nor Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had spoken out about the loss.
Putin told the people of Moscow in his congratulatory message, which was transcribed by the Kremlin, “We are proud of Moscow and love this city with its majestic history and its modern and lively pace of life, the charm of its cosy parks, lanes, and streets, and its wealth of business and cultural events.”
Putin has talked about how shocked he was when he was a KGB spy in East Germany and was told that “Moscow is silent” as the Berlin Wall fell. He said that those who died in the Ukraine operation did so for Russia.
When asked for a comment, the defence ministry did not give one.
“They’re taking the piss,” said Rybar, a well-known pro-war military blogger who posts on Telegram.
“Now is not the time to be quiet and say nothing. This hurts the cause very much.”
On Saturday, the ministry announced a “regrouping” that would move troops out of Kharkiv and put them in the Donetsk region, which is further east in Ukraine. This made many Russian military bloggers even more angry.
Some pro-Kremlin war correspondents and current and former servicemen with a lot of followers on Telegram said that the ministry was trying to downplay the loss.
Igor Girkin, a nationalist militant and former FSB officer who helped start a war in 2014 in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, compared the collapse of one of the main front lines of the conflict to the 1905 Battle of Mukden, a terrible loss in the Russo-Japanese war that led to the 1905 Russian Revolution.
Ukraine has called its quick advance a turning point in the 6-month-old war because it caused thousands of Russian soldiers to flee, leaving behind their weapons and supplies.
Girkin has been harshly critical of the country’s top leaders, calling the defence minister “the cardboard marshal.” He has also said many times that Russia will lose in Ukraine if it doesn’t call for a nationwide mobilisation.
Nationalist anger over military failure could be a much bigger problem for the Kremlin than liberals who support the West criticising Putin. Opinion polls continue to show that most people support what Moscow calls the “special military operation.”
On Saturday, as the capital city of Moscow celebrated Moscow Day with street parties and concerts, there were rumblings of unease even in Russia’s usually quiet parliament.
The leader of the opposition Just Russia party, Sergei Mironov, who is loyal to Putin, said on Twitter that a holiday fireworks show should be cancelled because of the military situation.
In one message that Semyon Pegov, a well-known war reporter, shared on Telegram, he called the celebrations in Moscow “blasphemous” and said that the Russian government’s refusal to start a full-scale war was “schizophrenic.”
“Either Russia will become itself by creating a new political elite, or it will stop being a country,” it said.