Insubordination is spreading through the Russian military in Ukraine after top commanders were fired for questioning the Kremlin’s war strategy, according to a report by a think tank.
According to the respected Institute for the Study of War (ISW), citing Russian sources, the Kremlin has in recent days fired a series of top commanders in Ukraine, most of whom were leading the defense of Russian positions in occupied Ukraine, specifically in Bakhmut and Zaporizhzhia.
The areas have been the scene of heavy fighting in recent weeks, as Ukraine seeks to push Russian forces out.
The most senior commander removed from his position was General Ivan Popov, who, in an act of defiance, criticized the treatment of front-line troops and the lack of artillery support in an audio recording released last week.
“The reported dismissal and arrest of commanders leading combat effective units and formations appears to be associated with cases of insubordination,” the ISW said.
It names the dismissed officers as Major General Vladimir Seliverstov, Major General Alexander Kornev, and Major General Ramil Ibatullin. It cited Russian military bloggers, an important source of information about the Russian military, saying that authorities were also preparing to arrest Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky.
According to the report, the officers dismissed all questioned the decisions of senior commanders in Ukraine.
The report says that the defiance towards Russia’s top commanders appears to be spreading through the ranks.
It cites an audio recording from Russian airborne units, known in Russian as VDV, in the occupied Kherson region. In the audio, soldiers said they would abandon their positions if their commanding officer, Teplinsky, is arrested.
“This audio appeal, if legitimate, is a threat of mass desertion in the face of the enemy on behalf of Teplinsky. Desertion in the face of the enemy is a capital offense in many militaries. The VDV servicemen are blackmailing the Russian MoD to ensure that Teplinsky continues to command troops in Ukraine,” the ISW said.
The Russian military is in turmoil in the wake of the June mutiny by fighters from the Wagner mercenary group, who sought the firing of Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu for blunders in Ukraine.
Russian forces have faced steep casualties and in the invasion of Ukraine, and are reportedly fighting with low morale and poor equipment. A Ukrainian counteroffensive aimed at driving them back has so far made limited gains.
According to reports, in the wake of the uprising the Kremlin launched a search for traitors in the upper ranks of the Russian military, arresting Sergey Surovikin, a former supreme commander of Russian forces in Ukraine.
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