In April 2014, a former Russian soldier and spy took over Nom de Guerre von Igor Strelkov conquered the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk with a band of irregular troops and later became defense minister of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic.
Now he is telling the Kremlin that the all-out offensive launched this week by Russian forces to seize the entire Donbass region – with far greater numbers and firepower – is at serious risk of failing.
These days, Strelkov (“Shooter”), whose real name is Igor Girkin, sniffs from the sidelines and appears on YouTube and other social media in a signature black shirt to appeal in his sonorous baritone to the flaws in President Vladimir Putin’s ” Special “Military Operation” to conquer Ukraine.
“We must ask ourselves,” Strelkov writes in his latest screed on Telegram: “Does the superiority of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in aviation and heavy weapons guarantee victory over an enemy to whom our offensive plans are obvious, ready for defense and with high morale?”
“My answer is NO – there are no guarantees.”
In a country where freedom of expression is repressed, Russians, whose war aims are even more extreme than those of the Kremlin, still seem to have a license to voice their views. And 51-year-old Strelkov takes the opportunity to publish the three-part list of Russia’s war prospects on his Telegram channel on Wednesday. (Here are parts two and three.)
Strelkov wrote the play at the request of a comrade returning from the front, who asked him to do it “without getting caught up in the jungle of military science.”
He complied, writing in no uncertain terms that Russia, having been forced into a “large-scale withdrawal” from Kyiv in the north, risked a similar fate after concentrating its forces in the east to launch a second attack. Moscow lacks numbers, firepower and air support to sustain a rapid advance. And his troops are likely to escape their supply lines and eventually be ambushed by the Ukrainian defenders.
Strelkov concludes: “Without at least partial mobilization in the Russian Federation, it will be impossible and extremely dangerous to launch a deep strategic offensive against the so-called ‘Ukraine’. We must prepare for a long and difficult war.”
truth to power
Western analysts looking for clues to Russia’s next moves are keeping an eye on Strelkov, who has been charged with murder by a Dutch court over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014. Although Strelkov does not hold an official position, he shows some of the mastery of decoding Kremlin thought that Vladimir Zhirinovsky has shown.
It was the nationalist arsonist who died earlier this month filmed cut a Ukrainian birthday cake three years ago and said Russia should annex the eastern two-thirds of the country. Zhirinovsky last December predicted the Russian invasion in February almost to the day.
In Ukraine, where he is hated, Strelkov is seen as a conduit for Russian propaganda: his overt patriotism gives him the cloak to deliver bad news that the Kremlin can later acknowledge.
Putin on Thursday retrieved an attack on Ukrainian forces holding a steel mill in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, which Russian forces failed to fully capture after suffering heavy casualties in nearly two months of war. “This is the case when we have to remember – that is, we always have to remember, but in this case even more so – to protect the life and health of our soldiers and officers,” Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Strelkov, sporting a pencil mustache and a trimmed parting, was silent in the early stages of the war. But after concluding that the Russian invasion is in danger of turning into a bloody debacle, he has expressed his views freely and directly.
“It became clear around the fifth day that the operation had not gone according to plan. On the sixth day, I received a lot of information and understood that my instinct was absolutely right,” he said in a video interview End of March. “The operation is clearly not going according to plan because the plan was full of contradictions.”
Russia’s attack was based on a deeply flawed assessment of Ukraine; assuming his army would not fight or defect; and counted on people shifting their allegiance to Russia. “The operation is stuck on all fronts,” he concluded.
If Russia cannot win, it will “just drown in the Ukrainian mud,” Strelkov added. His logic is: no compromise is possible with Ukraine. The country’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is fully under the control of the United States. And Washington tells Zelenskyy that Ukraine must fight “until Russia falls apart.”
He returned to the subject in an April 12 interview. warning that the signing of a peace agreement and the withdrawal of troops “will mean our surrender”.
The Russian troops in the north met the same fate as the Soviet Red Army in the Winter War with Finland in 1939-40, says Strelkov, while in the Donbas he doubts they can encircle the Ukrainian troops. “If our troops are advancing at the speed of a limping invalid, it could take a long time,” he says.
Two days later he mocks Russia’s Defense Ministry for threatening to hit strategic targets in Kyiv in retaliation for Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory. He likens it to “trying to scare a hedgehog by showing it your bare butt”.
https://www.politico.eu/article/soldier-spy-strelkov-snipes-from-sidelines-at-russias-setbacks-in-ukraine/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Soldier-spy 'Strelkov' snoops on Russia's backlash in Ukraine from the sidelines - POLITICO