Russian Army Currently Unable to Defeat Ukraine, Former Commander Says

The Russian armed forces deployed in Moscow’s invasion effort are “unable to defeat the Ukrainian armed forces,” according to a former Russian commander.

Looking back at the war around the first anniversary of the beginning of the full-scale conflict, former Russian federal security service officer and ultra-nationalist war blogger, Igor Girkin, discussed Russian gains and retreats in Ukraine over the past 12 months.

In a clip posted to Twitter by the WarTranslated project, Girkin, who led Russian-backed forces in the separatist Donetsk region in 2014, examined what he identified as early Russian failures in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region and the Black Sea’s Snake Island.

After running through key battles of the past year, Girkin, who is also known by the alias Igor Strelkov, then spoke about Russian gains in the summer of 2022 around the Donbas settlements of Popasna, Kreminna, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. Yet in other areas Russian advances had been “minimal or non-existent,” he said.

Former Russian Federal Security Service officer and ex-defense minister of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic Igor Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, speaks during a press conference on September 27, 2022, in Moscow. The Kremlin’s forces, “in their current state, are unable to defeat the Ukrainian armed forces,” Girkin has said.
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After Moscow’s forces took control of the Donetsk village of Pisky in August, sweeping counteroffensive operations by the Ukrainian military in Kharkiv “defeated our forces,” Girkin said.

Kyiv’s push through the northeastern region in the late summer “forced them [Russia] to retreat disorderly,” he added in translated comments, “abandoning vehicles, weapons and accumulated ammunition.” Russian forces had also pulled back from the Chernihiv and Sumy regions, he said.

By the time of Moscow’s retreat from Kharkiv, Ukraine had been making use of Western-supplied HIMARS, or high-mobility artillery rocket systems, as well as striking strategic Russian bases, Girkin told his audience.

A “huge amount” of Russian ammunition was lost in strikes on its stockpiles, he said.

Russia had been unable to take Kyiv, he said, and “despite a range of failures,” Ukraine’s armed forces are “holding roughly half” of the separatist Donetsk region.

“Fundamentally, we are currently in way worse positions than those which were captured in the first days of the operation a year ago,” he argued.

He later said: “The Russian forces, in their current state, are unable to defeat the Ukrainian armed forces.”

Western analysts, in the run-up to the first anniversary of the outbreak of the war on February 24, broadly questioned the Russian military’s ability to launch an expected spring offensive in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin likely began to exhaust Russia’s combat-ready forces as early as May 2022, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank said on Sunday. This coincides with the start of Russia’s withdrawal from Kharkiv.

Throughout the war, Putin has faced fierce criticism from the Russian “milblogger” community, whose members have been vocal in their disappointment with Moscow’s military progress.

The Kremlin “continues to tolerate” Girkin despite his critical voice, the ISW said on Sunday, likely because of Girkin’s links to volunteer forces in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions “that have generated additional volunteers for the war.”

Newsweek has reached out to Russia’s defense ministry.

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