Posted on 10/02/2022 7:47 AM
(Image credit: Yasuyoshi CHIBA/AFP)
Russian forces fighting in Ukraine withdrew from the strategic Donetsk city of Liman yesterday in a major setback for Moscow, just a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the region in which they are located is now part of Russia.
The city of Liman is part of the territory illegally annexed by Putin on Friday: the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as Zaporizhia and Kherson, which are occupied by Russian troops. Putin described these regions as “Novorossiya,” or New Russia, in his speech on Friday, classifying them as part of the country’s historic heartland.
As a result, the flight of Russian soldiers is embarrassing and puts additional pressure on the Kremlin, which has faced a backlash at home over its battlefield losses and the recruitment of hundreds of thousands of men to fight in February 24invaded Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry justified the withdrawal with a measure to avoid a worstcase scenario for the Kremlin in which Russian troops would be trapped. “Due to the risk of being encircled, allied forces were withdrawn to more advantageous locations,” the ministry said in a statement published on Telegram.
Liman, taken over by Russia in May, serves as the main rail hub for Donbass, the mineralrich region in Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk provinces that has long been the focus of Putin’s war goals. Ukraine’s ability to retake Liman is the main evidence that Russia’s ability to control Donbass is far from secure.
With Liman under Ukrainian control, the struggle for Donbass is entering a new phase. Retaking the city means Ukrainian troops have the upper hand to retake areas before winter sets in. The next target, if the Ukrainian military continues its advance, will be Svatov, a town northeast of Liman to which the Russians have retreated. According to analysts, these recaptures would guarantee Ukraine control of 40% of Donetsk territory.
Two powerful supporters of President Vladimir Putin turned on the Russian military leadership on Saturday after it ordered Liman’s withdrawal, a clear sign of the contradiction within the Russian elite that arises when the Kremlin seeks to project an image of strength and unity to mediate.
Ramzan Kadirov, the leader of the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, wrote in the messaging app Telegram that Russia’s top military had “covered in blood” an incompetent general who is now “slated to be sent to the front to wash away his shame.” He also called on the Russian army to use “lowpower nuclear weapons” in Ukraine.
Yevgeni Prigozhin, the business tycoon close to Putin who heads the Wagner Group an army of mercenaries fighting for Russia in various wars released a statement an hour later saying he agreed with Kadirov. “Send all these pieces of junk barefoot with machine guns straight to the front,” Prigozhin said, alluding to Russian military leaders.
The Kremlin’s military leadership, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a close associate of Putin, has been criticized in recent months by Putin allies and Russian prowar advocates who see them as corrupt bureaucrats failing as military strategists. This criticism has widened after Russia’s withdrawal from northeastern Ukraine last month.
But the anger after losing Liman was beyond normal. Yegor Kholmogorov, a Russian military analyst, wrote on Telegram that “any retreat will look like a bad omen in light of what is happening in Moscow”. After Russia confirmed the withdrawal, Yevgeni Primakov, an influential former prime minister and former head of Russian intelligence, wrote on Telegram: “We handed over a Russian city to the enemy for the first time since World War II.”
Analysts say public criticism of Kadirov and Prigozhin is increasing domestic pressure for an escalation of the war, which could be dangerous. (With international agencies).
The information comes from the newspaper. The state of Sao Paulo.