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What do you get from the developments in Ukraine if you follow the Russian reports? If you only read the press releases of the Russian Ministry of Defense, you will miss the fact that the Ukrainian forces have made surprising advances east of Kharkov in recent days. And that the Russian army must withdraw very quickly. For months, data from Moscow essentially summarized the damage the Russian armed forces inflicted on the adversary.
The past few days were no exception, although the maps accompanying the official messages clearly showed shifts on the front line. According to the map presented today, only the easternmost province of Kharkov will remain in the hands of the Russians.
Born out of necessity
Yesterday, after several days of relative silence, the Ministry’s spokesperson explained the sudden changes on the battlefield. “In order to achieve the goals of the special military operation to liberate Donbass, it was decided to regroup Russian forces in the area around Aklia and Izyum,” said Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov. The troops were to be deployed in the battle of the Donetsk province. Before the “reassembly”, it was said that Russian forces carried out the “transformation” and killed more than two thousand “Ukrainian and foreign fighters”.
This statement was made out of necessity, because over the past week the events have followed each other at an astonishing speed and reports of them have reached the Russian public via social media at lightning speed. These statements contradict previous statements made, among others, by the Russian representative to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzga. A day earlier, he told the Security Council that there was “no doubt” that Ukraine would détente. He described the Ukrainian proposals to launch a counterattack as “crazy”.
All is well
On the same day, Russian state television actively reported reinforcements on their way to the front line and showed pictures of long lines of the army and Russian helicopters dropping military equipment. Russian war correspondent Yevgeny Poddoybny, who was present at the site, said the situation was “difficult, but it is under control.”
Nothing in the air this weekend was also evident from the festivities around the 875th anniversary of Moscow attended by tens of thousands of people. President Vladimir Putin has given the green light to start operating what is said to be Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel at the push of a button, and has opened a new gym. The attraction closed its doors soon after due to a technical defect. On the same evening, a spectacular fireworks display over Moscow.
But beneath the surface there has been turmoil for days, particularly on Russian social media, where there has been an active search for an explanation for Russia’s sudden backsliding and sometimes for the culprits of this embarrassment. The Deputy Minister of Information of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic”, Daniil Bezsonov, blamed the withdrawal from the strategically important city of Izyum on the “mistakes of the high command”.
This is also the conclusion of the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. “If changes are not made to the strategy of the special military operation today, I will have to explain the situation to the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and the country,” he added. Kadyrov also promised via social media to quickly restore the lost lands, and even advance to Odessa.
extravagant fireworks display
“We should not look for traitors and come up with conspiracy theories,” talk show host Artyom Scheinin wrote on Telegram. “We must calmly analyze what happened and realize that a violent war is being waged with a strong opponent.” In a separate post, Scheinin denounced the extravagant fireworks display in Moscow at such a dramatic moment.
The war correspondent Poddubny called the withdrawal from Ezhum “a tragic and bitter episode”, but “completely correct from a military point of view.” According to him, encircling the city would be a “disaster.” And on Sunday evening, the weekly Vesti Nedeli background program, in addition to the official information from the Ministry of Defense, reported Poddoebny, who reported that the Ukrainian advance “has stopped. Russian forces managed to achieve stability,” he said.
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