Putin's war days numbered as Russian soliders tipped to 'stop following orders' in Ukraine

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Russian troops are to withdraw from Kherson, a retreat that provides yet another boost for the Ukrainian military. State media in Moscow is informing its viewers that the withdrawal is being carried out for strategic reasons, but ultra-nationalist military bloggers in Russia are already lamenting the decision. In the eight months of fighting, Russia has suffered big losses in both personnel and military hardware, and numerous reports have emerged of Russian troops angry and frustrated at the way they have been treated. 

With Russia’s war prospects looking increasingly bleak, one expert believes Moscow’s soldiers could rebel against their superiors and even stop following orders.

Jeff Hawn, a specialist in Russian military issues and external consultant for the New Lines Institute was discussing the letter written by men of the 155th Brigade of the Russian Pacific Fleet Marine. In it, they say they “were thrown into an incomprehensible battle” near Donetsk and accused their generals of trying to hide the losses.

Mr Hawn said the Russian military had to deny the claims made by the soldiers “in order to prevent this affair from getting out of control and feeding the growing discontent of the Russian population even more.”

On the 155th brigade, he added: “It’s a self-contained combat unit, like a pocket army that has all the equipment needed to function on its own. The unit of professional soldiers was clearly used as cannon fodder in the hope of gaining some territory.”

Moscow is maintaining that Kherson remains a part of Russia despite the retreat. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday: “It is a subject of the Russian Federation — it is legally fixed and defined. There are no changes and there can be no changes.”

The retreat may not stop Ukraine from dealing further blows to Russia, as an expert believes another 20,000 Russian soldiers could be killed as Ukrainian troops surround them.

Justin Crump, CEO of defence analysts Sibylline, told the BBC: “There is an opportunity here for the Ukrainians to inflict a really damaging blow on Russia.

“It wouldn’t knock [Russia] out of the war but it would be a huge setback to take those kind of losses. The withdrawal is something Russia is doing to try and avoid further losses… but that is what they’re facing.”



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