Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces fighting in Ukraine are heading toward military “defeat,” warned former Russian commander Igor Girkin on Sunday.
Putin launched his “special military operation” on Ukraine in February 2022, aiming for a quick victory against his Eastern European neighbor. However, Ukraine responded with a stronger-than-expected defense effort, bolstered by Western aid, that has blunted Russian military gains. After more than a year of the conflict, combat remains concentrated in the easternmost regions of Ukraine, with analysts saying Russia’s attempted winter offenses have largely failed.
The floundering invasion has been met with pushback from some of Russia’s military bloggers, including Girkin, who rose to prominence during Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and has been charged with war crimes in Ukraine.
A self-described Russian nationalist, Girkin has expressed support for the goals of the Ukraine invasion, but has become increasingly critical of Kremlin leadership, which he argues has not sufficiently equipped troops for the invasion.
Former Defence Minister of separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” and Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Igor Strelkov speeches during his press conference, September 27, 2022, in Moscow, Russia. Igor Strelkov, also known as Igor Girkin, who played key role in the annexation of Crimea and organized militant groups in Donbas in 2014, talked about his support for partial mobilization and for Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.
Girkin offered a dire assessment for Russian forces in new remarks, accusing Russian state media, which typically toes the Kremlin line, of “polishing” the situation in Ukraine. He also lamented on how the lack of true information about the situation in Ukraine has affected Russia.
“It has an extremely negative effect on the situation in the entire country, in our entire state,” Girkin said. “I am not afraid to say that we are moving toward military defeat.”
Video of Girkin’s remarks was translated and posted to Twitter by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, on Sunday morning.
Girkin continued to call out the Russian military over the lack of progress made during the winter. Combat in recent months have largely focused on the city Bakhmut, where Russian soldiers have fought alongside the Wagner Group, a paramilitary unit, to deliver a largely-symbolic victory to the Russian population.
Russia saw some success in the months-long campaign, which has featured some of the most intense and bloody combat of the war. However, analysts say progress has stalled in recent weeks as the number of recent Russian offenses dropped—the latest sign that Putin’s forces continue to struggle.
“Over the winter, we were unable to push the enemy back even 10 km from Donetsk and not even because we left Kherson. We rolled back from Kharkiv region. We rolled back from near Kyiv,” Girkin said.
Girkin pointed to the Russian economy and military being “totally unprepared” for the “long, protracted war.” He has also criticized Russian authorities for legally classifying the invasion as a “special military operation,” rather than a war, which he says limits soldiers’ capacity in Ukraine.
Rajan Menon, director of the Grand Strategy program at Defense Priorities, told Newsweek Sunday that Girkin is part of an “increasing” group of right-wing nationalists who are dissatisfied with the war.
“Having watched this offensive and having seen it, despite the advantage of numbers, fail to make any significant headway against an adversary that in terms of foreign power is inferior, they are of the mind that the campaign has at the very least stalled out and likely has failed,” he said. “And that the soldiers have been let down, and that the commanders are incompetent.”
Menon agreed with Girkin’s analysis that Russia is headed for defeat, pointing out that Russian forces have reportedly taken high casualties, have failed to make substantial advances and have repeated failed tactics “with disastrous consequences.”
He said it would take a “significant overhaul” in leadership and tactics for Russia to stage a comeback.
“But they haven’t now, since the end of the September, achieved anything that people like Girkin could look at and say, ‘Well we are making progress, and there is competent military leadership at the helm,'” Menon said.
On Saturday, Girkin criticized Kremlin military leaders for announcing an increase in munitions production. He argued the increase will not keep up with the needs of the Russian soldiers, calling key Russian authorities “idiots”
Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment via email.