A Russian-installed official in Ukraine has poured scorn on Moscow’s generals and suggested its defence minister should shoot himself because of failures in the Ukraine invasion.
In a four-minute video message on Thursday, Kirill Stremousov, head of the annexed Kherson region, publicly scolded the “generals and ministers” in Moscow for failing to understand the problems on the front.
“Indeed, many say if they were a defence minister who had allowed such a state of affairs, they could, as officers, have shot themselves,” Stremousov said. “But you know the word ‘officer’ is an incomprehensible word for many.”
Such public and insulting criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s top warfighters from within the system is extremely rare in modern Russia.
After more than seven months of war in Ukraine, Russia’s most basic aims are still not achieved while Russian forces have suffered a series of battlefield defeats in recent months, forcing Putin to announce a partial mobilisation.
The withdrawal of Russian forces from a strategically important town in eastern Ukraine prompted two powerful allies of Putin this week to publicly ridicule the war machine’s leaders.
Defence minister Sergey Shoigu, one of Putin’s closest allies, was appointed in 2012. So close was their relationship the two men regularly holidayed together in the forests and mountains of Shoigu’s native Tuva.
The defence ministry declined immediate comment.
Stremousov laced his criticism with words of praise for the soldiers who fought to the death, contrasting their heroism with the “incompetent military leaders” in Moscow.
“The ministry of defence does not consist only of ministers, generals, corrupt looters and other various scum, but all those heroes who gave their lives to defend Russia,” Stremousov said.
Stremousov praised Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who also publicly scolded the top brass. “I agree with Ramzan Akhmatovich Kadyrov who raised this issue. Well done,” he said.
His comments come two days after Russian defence ministry maps showed rapid pullbacks in Ukraine’s southern Black Sea region of Kherson amid the Ukrainian army’s counteroffensive.
Kyiv’s forces have been slowly reclaiming territory in Kherson for several weeks, but the advance has accelerated in recent days.
With a population of one million prior to the war, Kherson is a key agricultural area and forms the gateway to the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
The region’s main city was among the first to fall to the Russians after they launched the invasion in February.