A praised Russian general has been fired by the Kremlin after criticising its war chiefs in a near-identical way to the Wagner Group warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The forced resignation of Major General Ivan Popov, who commanded occupying forces in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region, caused fury among the Russian military blogger community, with some suggesting the dismissal would lead to “inevitable catastrophe”.
The Russian commander “had enjoyed great respect among his subordinates”, according to soldiers in Ukraine and milblogger channels on Telegram, but his Prigozhin-esque rebuke of defence minister Sergei Shoigu and head of the Armed Forces Valery Gersimov lead to those chiefs accusing him of “disinformation, alarmism and an attempt at blackmailing senior management”.
In an undated voice message from Popov, leaked by Russian MP Andrei Gurulyov, who is a former military commander and frequent commentator on state TV, the major general accused Shoigu and Gerasmiov of “treacherously and vilely decapitating the army” by failing to supply sufficient weaponry.
In comments notably similar to those of Prigozhin prior to his mutiny on June 24, Popov added that the inadequate supplies had caused “the mass death and injury of Russian military personnel”.
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The dismissal, reshuffle or even death of a Russian commander rarely leads to much reaction among the anti-Ukraine community, but the forced resignation of Popov incited major commentators into action.
Gerasimov, already an unpopular figure among many pro-Russian commentators, is believed to have personally ordered the commanders dismissal after hearing his comments.
Inspired by the purported honesty of Wagner chief Prigozhin in the months leading up to his mutiny last month, pro-Russian commentators suggested this latest dismissal was Gersimov and Shoigu’s attempt to protect their own disinformation about the state of the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
In the leaked message, Popov said he raised questions about high casualty rate and lack of artillery support on closed channels with other senior commanders.
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“The most important tragedy of modern warfare is the lack of counter-battery combat, the absence of artillery reconnaissance stations, the mass death and injury of Russian military personnel from enemy artillery,” he said.
“It was necessary either to keep quiet and be a coward or to say it the way it is. I had no right to lie in the name of you, in the name of my fallen comrades in arms, so I outlined all the problems which exist.
“Our army could not be broken through from the front of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, we were hit from the rear by the senior commander. Treacherously and vilely decapitating the army at the most difficult and tense moment.”
Addressing his resignation, he added: “The senior chiefs apparently sensed some kind of danger from me [after my concerns] and quickly concocted an order from the defence minister in just one day and got rid of me.”
The Black Sea Strategy Institute (BSSI), a Russian military think tank, suggested that the similarities between Popov’s comments and Prigozhin’s previous public rebuke alluded to the extent to which resentment of the Kremlin war chiefs persists through the ranks of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine.
It shows that a proclivity to revolt exists not only among mercenaries but also Russian soldiers, they wrote.
This is an “inevitable catastrophe”, they added, one that symbolises “another crack in Putin’s ‘vertical’ chain of command.
Pro-Wagner channel Grey Zone accused the Kremlin war chief’s of writing “one thing on paper” while ignoring “another in fact”, suggesting Popov had been sacked for publishing the truth.
They wrote: “[Popov’s] indication of problems at the front really takes place. The fighters of most units really have a lot of fatigue, which affects their moral and physical condition, and a number of military formations are understaffed.”
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