Even Vladimir Putin’s allies are starting to talk about war on Ukraine


a The sudden Ukrainian counterattack Over the weekend, Russia appears to have fallen behind – and it could have consequences for Russian President Vladimir Putin both at war and at home.

Within a few days, Ukrainian forces liberated more than 150,000 people and 3,100 square miles of land in the country’s Kharkiv region from Russian occupation, according to Ukrainian government officials. The Ukrainian push prompted Russian forces to quickly abandon major supply centers and military equipment. video Generalization On social media, some appear Residents walk out of their homes and embrace Ukrainian soldiers. Russian forces have responded with strikes on critical infrastructure, but it is unclear whether they will be able to regain their position in the region.

As the Washington Post’s Russia correspondent Marie Ilyushina says: Today, explain Shon Rameswaram, Ukrainian forces defeated an exhausted and disorganized Russian army with the help of Western intelligence and weapons.

While it is too early to say whether this breakthrough marked a turning point in the war, it appears to have made some Putin supporters skeptical whether his “special operation” is actually winnable. Some called for a more aggressive Russian response, even pressing for general mobilization and the use of weapons purchased from North Korea. As Ilyushina says, the “chorus of pro-Kremlin voices and state propaganda” was in disarray.

Today’s explanation I spoke to Ilyushina to understand those different responses, what they tell us about the political factors influencing Putin, and how all of this might affect his response to the Ukrainian counterattack.

Below is an excerpt from the conversation, edited for length and clarity. There’s a lot more to the full podcast, so listen to it Today’s explanation Wherever you get podcasts, including Apple PodcastAnd the google podcastAnd the spotifyAnd the Stitcher.


Shawn Rameswaram

How embarrassing is all this for Vladimir Putin?

Marie Ilyushina

It’s so embarrassing because his main brand, the one he’s been building for the past 20 years, is that he knows what he’s doing. He always gets the job done. In this case, we even see people who are very pro-Kremlin, and staunch supporters of this invasion, say that they do not like the way Russia has done about it. We’ve heard from people like the leader of the Russian Communist Party say that Russia is no longer really fighting in a “special operation” and this is an actual war. The use of the word “war” to describe this mission has been essentially banned by Russia. People are fined or even jailed for speaking out about war in public. They should call it a “special military operation.” So we definitely saw a lot of criticism from the very pro-Putin and very hard-line camp. This is a very new development that we will have to see if it causes the Kremlin to change anything in the way they are pursuing this invasion.

Shawn Rameswaram

Tell me more about what we’ve heard regarding criticism of this war in Russia.

Marie Ilyushina

Last weekend, when news broke that Russia had lost a large part of this land and retreated, the pro-Kremlin chorus and voices of government propaganda were truly in disarray. Some people chose to ignore the news entirely because they didn’t know how to deal with it. Some outlets, such as the official Kremlin newspaper, did not report this at all. Some prominent TV shows are starting to say, look, Russia is not just fighting against Ukraine, it is fighting against the entire NATO. That’s why they have a hard time doing this. They want Putin and the Kremlin to be more aggressive, retaliate against Ukraine, strike civilian targets, and do more. They think that the way Russia is now waging this war is not enough. They want a general mobilization. They want to put the whole country on this path of war and they want to get everything out. So there’s a lot of conflicting messages going on in the camp that are usually really pro-Putin and follow the party line.

Some liberal and opposition forces are also trying to seize the moment. There has been a remarkable effort by local lawmakers to gather signatures from regional officials to demand Putin’s resignation and charge him with treason. They are already facing administrative irregularities and fines, and the police have opened an investigation. [Those opposition forces] They say their goal – which they believe they have achieved – is to tell Russian anti-war opponents still in the country that they are not alone. They know Putin is not going to read that request and say, “Look, yeah, exactly. You’re right, I should stop doing this.” But they want to spread the word that there is still some resistance. And although there are great risks in offering this resistance to the public, they are still willing to do so.

Shawn Rameswaram

Tell me more about Vladimir Putin’s decision not to conduct conscription, not to enlist more Russians in this war.

Marie Ilyushina

In terms of general mobilization, the problem with that is that it will not be popular because a lot of Russians are trying to tune in. They are trying to live their lives as usual. The whole country situation [under a draft notice] It would not only mean recruiting all qualified men, it would mean resetting the entire economy and turning the entire country into this war machine that works only for the advancement of the front. And that will have a lot of ramifications because what Putin has promised the Russians for so long is this notion of stability. “As long as you stay out of politics, you can have your home and your job, and you can, you know, live a normal life.” This is something many Russians cling to. And it would be a very huge political decision to change all that and take that away. So Putin was resisting, and instead was looking for alternative, really innovative ways to recruit people. There is a concept of shadow mobilization that occurs in Russia.

Shawn Rameswaram

What is shadow fill?

Marie Ilyushina

This means that there are many PMCs, mainly mercenaries, fighting on behalf of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, but not officially with the Ministry of Defense, although it gives them orders and puts them where they need to be. They were responsible for many of Russia’s very decisive gains in this campaign. The use of PMCs also gives Russia some plausible deniability because there are conscripts who are fighting and they don’t really have to admit them among the losses.

Another thing they were doing was recruiting people from prisons. So there are multiple reports of these PMCs going to prisons and offering deals to people if they go to the front lines. Within six months, if they survive, they will receive a pardon. They are specifically looking for people who have been accused of violent crimes. This is how they avoided the draft. Whether this will be enough – again, a big question.

Shawn Rameswaram

Do the Russians have any idea that their captives, killers and thieves are fighting this war on their behalf in Ukraine?!

Marie Ilyushina

I think most don’t know anything about this. It is clearly not covered by the national media because it is very controlled. There are many human rights organizations that work to help these convicts, because convicts do not get any guarantees. Mercenary service is prohibited in Russia. It is illegal; Nothing is written on paper. So their rights are also violated by this.

But many of these human rights groups have been recognized as foreign agents in Russia, so they cannot work more widely and effectively inform the general public of what is happening. And it’s really hard to do that. So I think most don’t know anything about this.

Shawn Rameswaram

Do we have any idea of ​​Putin’s plans to regain a foothold in Ukraine, if any?

Marie Ilyushina

Planning is not public in any way. We do not even know who is the commander in chief of this operation in Ukraine. We know there’s a mod, but there’s someone out there who’s supposed to navigate all of that on the floor and be really practical. Russia has not even publicly announced the identity of this person. So it’s all really, really confidential. We can extract things from social media, by some soldiers talking, or some intelligence assessments from the other side. But it is difficult to analyze what Russia will do next.

We know they have some reserve forces, but they are also needed in some other directions. So we don’t know exactly whether they will be sent to Kharkiv to recover any footing. Much of their tactical battalions of troops had been drained during this campaign, and they were a kind of power cut. Russia was bringing them together from different parts and trying to regroup these groups. But what that means is that the chain of command is really down. And it’s hard to control all of these groups because they really don’t have any combat experience together. This makes it difficult for them to respond quickly and effectively to all of these goals.

Shawn Rameswaram

How important is this, all said? I mean, this conflict escalated a little over six months ago. I felt that Ukraine surprised the world by making it six months, even though there were certainly any number of Ukraine low points the whole time. But now they seem to have the upper hand?

Marie Ilyushina

Regardless of everything, it is clearly very important. What seems clear now is the fact that Russia believed that Ukraine was a really weak country and would not band together and that Ukrainian forces had spent the past eight years training with Western officers to no avail. But Ukrainian forces have already learned a lot and are much stronger than they were in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. So I guess all of these things weren’t taken into account, which is now showing. She appears.

Obviously, it is difficult to predict what will happen next, especially when we have so little information being publicly released from Moscow. But I think Moscow should not be underestimated either. Perhaps it is too early to say that this is the end or that this is the turning point. But we should not underestimate Moscow.





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