- This coward is lying down at the control point and sending column after column until the commander of one of the brigades involved in the Vuhledar attack is dead on the contact line.
- Another sign that the people in charge of Russia think it will take a long time to reach the goals of the invasion.
Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister, has made a rare visit to Russian troops in occupied Ukraine. This visit is probably as much about how it looks as it is about how Russia’s invasion is going.
The Russian Defense Ministry released a short video that showed Shoigu in a helicopter and then briefly with commanders near some heavily damaged buildings. It wasn’t possible to figure out where the video was right away.
The Defense Ministry said that Shoigu “inspected the forward command post of one of the Vostok (Eastern) forces formations in the direction of South Donetsk.”
The video didn’t make it look like Shoigu was near the most active front lines.
Russian critics of Shoigu often say that he is far away and doesn’t know what’s going on in the conflict. Yevgeny Prigozhin, who runs the Wagner private military company, is often seen on the front lines around the city of Bakhmut, where he often accuses the Defense Ministry of not giving his fighters enough resources and being incompetent with their jobs.
Prigozhin said on Friday that his troops are almost surrounded by Bakhmut, which is the only important place that Russian forces might be able to take soon.
Shoigu’s visit could be a response to Prigozhin’s presence in the front lines and a way to boost Russian operations. Even though Russia has made small, expensive gains around Bakhmut and has stepped up attacks with artillery, tanks, and planes in many places, most of the long frontline is still the same as it was three months ago.
Even though Russia mobilised 300,000 men last fall and tried to put more resources in the Donbas theatre after pulling out of almost half of the Kherson region in the south in November, this is still the case.
The Defense Ministry put out a video that showed Shoigu meeting with Colonel Generals Mikhail Mizintsev, Sergei Rudskoy, and Rustam Muradov, who were all involved in the conflict. This is probably meant to show that, despite what Prigozhin said, the Defense Ministry is in charge of the operation.
But it’s a little strange that Valery Gerasimov, the man in charge of the whole operation, didn’t seem to be part of this well-planned visit.
The presence of Muradov stands out. As commander of the Eastern Military District, he has been criticised by Russian military bloggers and even units under his command for using tactics that have caused a lot of casualties, especially around the town of Vuhledar, where Russian forces suffered huge losses in January.
Last month, the pro-Wagner Telegram channel Grey Zone said of Muradov, “This coward is lying down at the control point and sending column after column until the commander of one of the brigades involved in the Vuhledar attack is dead on the contact line.”
Even though Russia sent a large attack force, Vuhledar is still in Ukrainian hands.
In a video released by the Defense Ministry on Saturday, Shoigu can be seen giving awards to a number of soldiers and saying, “There is still a lot of work to do.” I really hope that you will keep serving our country with honour. Good luck, success, and come back home alive!”
Another sign that the people in charge of Russia think it will take a long time to reach the goals of the invasion. This is a far cry from the lightning campaign that was promised a year ago, but quickly fell apart.