Russia’s Kherson humiliation has prompted a prominent ally of President Vladimir Putin to vent his frustration on state-owned television by asking: “Why are we retreating?” Political scientist Sergey Kurginyan adopted a bullish tone during his appearance on Vladimir Solovyov’s programme on Russia-1 – but also admitted a “big conventional war” was “not supposed to happen”.
In a lengthy rant, he said: “We are all alone. So what? There are half as many of us, as compared to the USSR or the Russian Empire. So what?
“Our society is plagued by hedonism etc. So what? It doesn’t mean that we can lose.”
He acknowledged: “If everything is terrific, why the heck are we retreating from the territories that are already part of the Russian Federation?
“It means that not everything is so terrific, but it doesn’t mean that everything is so horrible as the Ukrainian enemy and the Western media are trying to portray.
“As well as the hysteria of idiots, howling like dogs after every episode, it doesn’t mean that it’s so. Nor does it mean that it’s wonderful.”
Speaking about a nation which has boasted of having one million active military personnel, Kurginyan insisted Russia was a “disadvantaged country”.
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Applying Putin’s logic that nominally annexed regions of Ukraine were now a part of Russia, he continued: “We can hold on to our dear, beloved country only at the expense of extraordinary efforts. That is how it is.
“We are surrounded by neighbours who look at our territories with a great appetite, as well as everything that we have. We have a low population density.
“Damn it, there aren’t that many of us right now. We got used to there being many of us, as there were in the Russian Empire and the USSR, but it’s no longer this way.
“We’ve been forced into a big conventional war that has been excluded from the post-Soviet military philosophy for decades. It was not supposed to happen.”
Commenting on Kurginyan’s suggestion that the war was “not supposed to happen”, Solovyov, a hard-liner who has on several occasion urged Putin to launch nuclear strikes on the UK, said: “But we’ll still have to return to Kherson, and not only to Kherson. Ukraine has to be liberated either way.
“In order for that to be possible, we need to work on our mistakes, fully roll out our industry, figure out who is responsible for the mistakes to realise how we are correcting them.
“We need to get ready and fulfil the task set by our Supreme Commander-in Chief.”
A report published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on Saturday suggested the Russian withdrawal had ignited “an ideological fracture between pro-war figures and Russian President Vladimir Putin, eroding confidence in Putin’s commitment and ability to deliver his war promises”.
The analysis added: “Putin is having a harder time appeasing parts of the highly ideological pro-war constituency due to his military’s inability to deliver his maximalist goals of overthrowing the Ukrainian government and seizing all of Ukraine, as ISW has previously assessed.
“Putin’s nationalist-leaning propagandists such as Vladimir Solovyov are increasingly demanding that the Kremlin and higher military command to fully commit to their goals in Ukraine, and Solovyov even called for full mobilisation and the firing of incompetent officials following the Russian surrender of Kherson city.
“Select milbloggers have previously criticised Putin for his failure to respond to the attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge on October 9, while others noted that Putin has failed to uphold the ideology of Russian superiority since 2014.”
Separately, Ukrainian police and UN investigators today said they were looking into alleged Russian abuses in Kherson during eight months of occupation of the key southern city, including torture sites and enforced disappearances and detentions.
Matilda Bogner, the head of the UN human rights office’s monitoring mission in Ukraine, decried a “dire humanitarian situation” in the city.
Speaking in Kyiv, she said her teams were planning to travel to Kherson to try to verify allegations of almost 80 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention it has turned up in the area and “understand whether the scale is in fact larger than what we have documented already”.