Home News Putin optimistic about war in Ukraine, launching purge at home

Putin optimistic about war in Ukraine, launching purge at home


Protests against alleged incompetence and corruption at the top of Russia’s military have continued. Sticking with President Vladimir V. Putin’s war effort Since the invasion of Ukraine began in early 2022.

The need for change became apparent when his troops faltered near the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Expectations for a shakeup grew a few months later when they were routed outside the city of Kharkiv. When the mercenary leader, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, marched his soldiers toward Moscow, complaining about corruption and incompetence at the top of the Russian military, it seemed Putin had to respond.

But each time, the Russian president has avoided any major public moves that could be seen as validating the criticism. During the power storm, Russian President Vladimir Putin has retained his defense minister and top generals while shuffling battlefield commanders and making other lower-level changes.

Now that the battlefield crisis appears to be a thing of the past and Prigozhin has died, the Russian leader has decided to take action, replacing the defense minister for the first time in more than a decade and allowing the arrest of several corrupt officials among senior defense officials.

The moves mark the biggest shakeup of the Defense Ministry since the invasion and confirm Putin’s tendency to avoid making big, responsive changes at the height of a crisis, instead acting at less conspicuous moments of his own choosing.

“We have to understand that Putin is a stubborn and inflexible person,” said Abbas Gallyamov, a former Putin speechwriter who now lives outside Russia. “He believes that reacting too quickly to a changing situation is a sign of weakness.”

Putin’s recent actions may well indicate that he More confident about their prospects on the battlefield Experts say he will remain tough on Ukraine and maintain his grip on political power as he begins his fifth term as president.

Russian troops make progress in Ukraineto seize areas around Kharkiv and the Donbas region, while Ukraine grapples with delayed U.S. aid and strained ammunition reserves. personnelSenior Kremlin officials are optimistic.

“They may have felt that the situation within the military was stable enough to punish some of the military leadership for previous failures,” said Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Calls for change have been suppressed in the Russian military hierarchy since the early days of the invasion, when rumors circulated that Russian soldiers went into battle without proper food and equipment and died because they listened to irresponsible military leaders.

Anger follows The uprising led by Prigozhin failed last year.He died in a subsequent plane crash, which U.S. officials said was Possibly a government-sanctioned assassination.

Mr. PrigozhinThe caterer-turned-warlord, who made his fortune on government contracts, was an unlikely messenger. But he brought high-level corruption to the attention of ordinary Russians and the public, launching profanity-filled tirades against Sergei Shoigu, then the defense minister, and General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s top military officer. At one point, Mr. Prigozhin He took a picture of himself in front of a pile of dead Russian fighters and condemned senior officials for “wallowing in fat” in their wooden offices.

His subsequent failed rebellion showed that problems that had accumulated over more than a decade at the ministry under Shoigu had come to a head and that the public was eager for a shake-up, said a person close to the ministry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive topics.

Now, Russia’s leaders appear to be taking action against the same officials that Prigozhin has been attacking.

The first signs of change came last month. Arrest of Timur IvanovHe is a close confidant of Shoigu and deputy defense minister in charge of military construction projects. Russian authorities accuse him of accepting huge bribes. He denies wrongdoing. Ivanov has previously been Attracting the attention of Alexey Navalny Anti-Corruption Foundation Because he and his wife lived an extremely lavish lifestyle, including chartering yachts on the French Riviera.

This month, days after Putin began his new presidential term, the Kremlin announced that he Succeeding Mr Shoigu and select Andrei R. Belousov, One of his longtime economic advisers became the new defense minister, and Shoigu was moved to run Russia’s Security Council, where he still has access to the president but little direct control over money.

“If you want to win a war, then large-scale corruption affecting battlefield outcomes is something you don’t want, at least in theory,” said Maria Enqvist, deputy director for Russian and Eurasian studies at the Swedish Defense Research Agency.

However, Enquist called high-level corruption in Russia “a feature, not a bug.”

“Corruption is a tool for gaining influence, but it can also be used against you at any time, depending on whether you say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or make the wrong decision at the wrong time,” she said. “So you can be driven out of office with a plausible explanation that the public can accept.”

Ms. Enquist said the changes also raised questions about how long General Gerasimov would remain Ukraine’s chief of general staff and top battlefield commander.

The Department of Defense’s arrest campaign is accelerating Four more senior generals and defense officials have been detained this month on corruption charges. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday denied the arrests were “operations.”

While leveling corruption charges against senior Defense Ministry officials, the government has also pledged to provide more economic and social benefits to rank-and-file soldiers in an apparent effort to boost morale and appease populist critics.

In his first speech since being nominated as defense minister, Belousov described his plans to cut bureaucracy and improve veterans’ access to health care and other social services.On Thursday, Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov expressed support for exempting Ukrainian fighters from income tax increases.

Senior officials arrested Dara Massicotte, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the moves are unlikely to root out widespread corruption in Russia’s military establishment, but they could make top officials think twice before engaging in large-scale theft, at least for a while.

“It will send a chill through the system and make everybody stop and try to figure out the new code of conduct,” Ms Massicotte said.

In addition to sending an anti-corruption message, at least one of the arrests appeared to be aimed at settling a political vendetta.

Major General Ivan Popov, a senior Russian commander who led the army to stop the Ukrainian counterattack Last year, he berated Russia’s military leadership in a widely circulated recording He was accused of fraud after his removal, and was arrested on Tuesday on charges of fraud, Russian state news agency TASS reported. His lawyer said he denied any wrongdoing.

“The bottom line is that this war has exposed a lot of different problems — corruption, incompetence, and open expressions of disobedience — that the leadership feels the need to address,” said Samuel Charrap, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. “Now is a good time to do it precisely because there is no acute risk in the short term on the battlefield.”

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