Putin dismisses the top general and begins dictating strategy to his top executives

Vladimir Putin has fired his longest-serving logistics general for the war in Ukraine because he is taking an increasingly hands-on role in army strategy, reportedly calling front-line commanders himself and defying their advice.

Mitry Bulgakov, the deputy defense minister, was ousted yesterday after errors pushed back Russia by Ukrainian troops in the east.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced the dismissal of four-star General Bulgakov “for transfer to another function”. The reason was not given, but the move was seen as punishment for shortcomings in the logistical support of Russia’s “special operation”.

General Bulgakov was replaced by Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, a 60-year-old under British sanctions for his role in the siege of Mariupol, which was seized by Russian forces in May.

One of the first challenges he faces is equipping, training and deploying the hundreds of thousands of reservists drafted Wednesday as part of Russia’s partial mobilization.

Soldiers fear they will soon be cut off from their supply lines

Russia is also under pressure in the south – but Putin has ignored pleas from his commanders to take measures to minimize casualties, according to US officials briefed through intelligence agencies.

Russian troops may soon be encircled in Kherson – but the president has rejected calls from generals there to stage an orderly withdrawal New York Times officials said.

This has reportedly shaken the morale of soldiers, who fear they will soon be cut off from their supply lines.

But the divisions over Kherson aren’t the first example of disagreements between the Russian leader and his top commanders. Senior Russian officers repeatedly questioned the plan of attack early in the war, including the hoped-for quick strike on Kyiv, US officials said.

The officers reportedly thought they had insufficient troops and weapons – and they were right.

As fighting continues in the south, the Russian army is trying to avoid a repeat of the rout in the north-eastern Kharkiv region, with fleeing troops leaving weapons and vehicles behind.

According to the White House, Putin is increasingly “fighting”.

Russian commanders insist that withdrawing from southern Cherson would allow them to hold their line with fewer troops, and they could station elsewhere – even open up new fronts.

But Putin has rejected these calls. Another Ukrainian victory would further erode public confidence in the war effort. It would also eliminate the need for the referendum held in Kherson on joining the Russian Federation.

According to the White House, Putin is increasingly “fighting”.

“He has terrible morale, unit cohesion on the battlefield, command and control is still unresolved. He has desertion problems, forcing the wounded back into battle. So manpower is clearly a problem for him,” John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, said last week.

“Putin has hesitated and refused to acknowledge reality until the options have changed from bad to worse”

Yesterday Putin signed a law increasing punishment for soldiers who disobey orders, desert or surrender to the enemy. The struggles can be coupled with a broader reckoning of what Putin wants and what can be achieved.

“Throughout this war, there has been a constant mismatch between Putin’s political goals and the military means to achieve them,” said Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at CNA.

“At key decision points, Putin has hesitated and refused to acknowledge reality until the options have changed from bad to worse,” he said.

General Bulgakov is just one of several senior military leaders sacked by Putin in recent months, revealing the chaotic structure of the Russian army and the president’s lack of confidence in his own commanders.

Lieutenant-General Roman Berdnikov remained in command of the Western Military District for just 16 days after it suffered crushing defeats in Kharkiv earlier this month.

At least seven other senior generals were dismissed, while ten were killed in action. Early in the election campaign, reports indicated that Putin was not being given a full picture of troop losses and slow advances in Ukraine because the generals were afraid of his reaction.

Now he has positioned himself as the public face of the war — with his televised speech last week threatening to use nuclear weapons, just the latest example of his efforts to seize control.

He also started referendums in the newly occupied parts. The process is underway in Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south, and in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. The vote is also part of a public relations effort inside Russia – with officials trying to show that the war is just and that they are liberating these regions as the locals want.

But Lugansk governor Serhiy Haidai said the vote “looked more like an opinion poll under the gun barrels,” adding that Moscow-backed local authorities sent armed escorts to accompany election officials and people’s names to include those who voted against joining Russia.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/putin-dismisses-top-general-and-starts-to-dictate-strategy-to-his-top-brass-42014927.html Putin dismisses the top general and begins dictating strategy to his top executives

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