In a rare display of criticism, a former officer of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has said that Russian troops and officers are unhappy with President Vladimir Putin and his military generals over their handling of the illegal ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
In a 90-minute video on his Telegram channel on Dec. 11, Igor Girkin, an influential nationalist blogger and former FSB officer, bemoaned failings by the Russian leadership – going as far as to state that the “fish’s head is completely rotten.”
Ranting that the Russian military needed reform and a change of leadership, Girkin added:
“It is not just me… people are not blind and deaf to it all. People at the mid-level there do not even hide their views which, how do I put it, are not fully complimentary about the president or the defense minister.”
This is not the first time that Girkin, who helped lead the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, has criticized Russia’s military strategy in Ukraine.
After joining the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR/DNR) Battalion in October and being deployed to Svatove in Luhansk Oblast (region), Girkin later took to Telegram to accuse Russian top brass of leaving troops to fight “with no clear strategic goals.”
“Simply put, the troops are fighting by inertia, not having the slightest idea of the ultimate strategic goals of the military campaign,” he wrote in a Telegram post on Dec. 9.
“In most parts of the RF [Russian Federation] Armed Forces, soldiers and officers do not understand: In the name of what, for what, and with what purposes they are fighting. It’s a mystery for them: What is the condition for victory or just a condition for ending the war.”
“And the authorities of the Russian Federation are not able to explain this to them,” he added, “since setting a clear goal for the special military operation means limiting room for maneuver – that is, losing the opportunity to declare the goals of the special military operation as achieved at any moment that the Kremlin leaders consider convenient.”
Putin “assured us that the special military operation was proceeding normally, calmly, according to plan (however, this time he did not add anything about being ahead of schedule),” Girkin continued.
“Therefore, we – the townsfolk – have absolutely nothing to worry about – Moscow and St. Petersburg are not yet shelled like Donetsk, and when they start shelling – the president, government, federal assembly and the leadership of state corporations are evacuated beyond the Urals (and that's all business!).”
Rifts and repercussions
On Dec. 9, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its daily report that Girkin’s comments were “unprecedentedly direct compared with previous attacks on the Kremlin,” adding, “these explicit attacks on Putin may reflect a rift between the pro-war DNR and veteran communities and Putin.”
Russian critics of Putin and the Kremlin often face fierce repercussions, with Russian ultranationalist Alexander Dugin, referred to by the media as “Putin’s brain,” embarking on a humiliating U-turn in November after issuing a not-so-subtle death threat to the Russian leader on Telegram.
In a post on Nov. 12, Dugin lamented the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from the Ukrainian port city of Kherson, accusing Putin of “surrendering” and failing to defend “Russian cities.”
Going further, Dugin, who deleted the post shortly after, said Putin had the responsibility of saving his nation or facing the fate of the “King of rains.”
The reference was to Sir James Frazer’s book “The Golden Bough,” in which a king was killed for failing to deliver rain during a drought.
Dugin added that “the authorities in Russia cannot surrender anything else… the limit has been reached.”
However, on Nov. 14, Dugin backtracked on his heated words of condemnation, writing another post on Telegram:
“The West (has) started to imply that I and Russian patriots have turned against Putin after the Kherson surrender, allegedly demanding his resignation. No one has turned their back on Putin; I and all Russian patriots support him unconditionally.”
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