Geopolitics

Putin sacks top Generals for failure to capture Kharkiv and other Ukraine cities
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 26 May , 2022

President of Russia Vladimir Putin has sacked a top General who failed to capture the Ukraine’s key city of Kharkiv whom he blames for botching his war in Ukraine.

Lieutenant General Serhiy Kisel was the head of the elite 1st Guards Tank Army, charged with taking Ukraine’s second biggest city. But he has now been suspended for his failure to capture Kharkiv.

Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, the commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, has also been suspended following the sinking of the flagship Moskva last month. This was one of the greatest successful events of the Ukraine’s Navy.

It seems that Putin is very upset in losing battles but still not agreeing for a ceasefire, which may salvage his prestige.

Putin may have also lost the confidence in General Valery Gerasimov, his senior most general in Ukraine, as his campaign faltered. As a matter of fact Putin has fired a number of senior commanders who have performed poorly and failed to capture of Ukraine’s important strategic military establishments.

A culture of cover-ups and scapegoating is probably prevalent within the Russian military and security system. Many officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine are likely to be distracted by efforts to avoid personal culpability for Russia’s setbacks. This is likely to place further strain on Russia’s centralised model of command and control, as officers are increasingly seeking to defer key decisions of their superiors resulting in unrest among the officers and soldiers.

However, Russian forces have been forced to withdraw from around Kharkiv after months of heavy bombardment failed to break stiff resistance, leading to Moscow’s second major defeat during the war. It has been reported that a number units have revolted the higher command orders. Chances of a military Coup cannot be denied if the present defeats of Russian troops persist. 

At the end of March 2022, Russian forces carried out a tactical retreat from the capital city of Kyiv, after a sustained bombardment. Kyiv was considered to be the main objective of the Russian Army. Intelligence sources indicate that Russia might have pulled back its forces from Kharkiv to relocate them to the eastern Donbas region now a priority target.

Russia has shifted most of the focus of its war to eastern Ukraine, after pulling back its forces from near the capital Kyiv. The battle for Ukraine’s old industrial heartland known as Donbas is likely to decide the fate of the Russian invasion.

Russian forces now control large swathes of the south, having triggered a humanitarian catastrophe due to their success after a long siege of the port city of Mariupol.But Ukraine’s president has vowed the military “will fight for every meter of our land” and some of their best-trained forces are already posted in the east because of an eight-year war with Russian-backed separatists. 

What Putin really means is the entirety of two big eastern regions, Luhansk and Donetsk, which run from outside Mariupol in the south all the way to the northern border.His proxy forces seized more than a third of the area after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Donbas is predominantly Russian speaking and Russia has repeatedly spoken of “liberating” the rest too.These areas may be broadly Russian speaking, but they are no longer pro-Russian. Russia’s likely next step would be to annex Donbas and other adjacent areas, exactly as President Putin did with Crimea after a discredited referendum in 2014. 

The poor performance of the mighty Russian Army has shocked the Western strategic analysts who feel that the Russian troops had lacked direction, motivation, intelligence failure, poor strategic visionand the proper equipment to achieve its objective of capturing Ukraine.

A lack of experience and empowerment among Russian army’s cadre of non-commissioned, and junior commissioned officers so important in world armies and battlefield tactical tinkering by Putin, has also hampered the performance of the Russian troops.

Despite their reinforcements, there is widespread scepticism that Russian forces will achieve any breakthrough fast. Russian forces have already sustained high losses after nearly three months of conflict and morale is thought to be low. Their units are made up of men enlisted from the local separatist areas, many under duress, as well as the broader Russian army.

The US Senate on 19 May 2022 approved a $40 billion emergency and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine, as the US deepens its support for an increasingly costly and protracted fight against Russian invasion. The measure would bring the total investment in the war roughly $54 billion in just nearly three months.

The Senate approved it overwhelmingly on a vote 86-11, in the latest reflection of the remarkable bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for a massive investment in Ukraine’s war effort, which propelled the spending package through the House.

The measure’s relatively smooth path through Congress has demonstrated how the searing images of suffering in Ukraine, coupled with fears about Russian aggression spreading beyond the country’s borders have – at least for now – overcome resistance from both the parties to American involvement in the war abroad.

The US and EU military aid to Ukraine has shown good results a repelling attacks in Ukraine and Russia is now feeling the heat of its defeat while Putin continues his vicious belligerence against the Ukrainians.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva

is a Defence Analyst and Commentator.

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