A former spy and commander who was important in launching the original battle has claimed that Russia has virtually little chance of winning the war in Ukraine, even if it manages to conquer the entirety of Donbas in the coming weeks.
Igor Girkin, whose alias is Igor Strelkov, which means’shooter,’ has given a scathing assessment of Putin’s war effort, claiming that Russian units are suffering ‘huge losses’ by ‘banging their heads against’ deeply entrenched Ukrainian troops, and are led by commanders who ‘leave much to be desired.’ Despite Russia’s recent piecemeal advances on the Donbas front – taking towns near Popansa and attempting to encircle Severodonetsk – Strelkov claims Ukraine is quickly mobilizing more forces, rearming with Western weapons, and digging into new defensive positions that will be difficult to overrun.
Without a mass mobilisation of Russia’s army, Strelkov contends, it is “meaningless to expect for success,” which Putin refuses to do because he is being molly-coddled by his inner circle into believing victory is still conceivable. ‘Nothing will change as long as he is insulated from reality, and when it does change… it will be too late to do anything.’
When the Russian offensive comes to a halt, which Strelkov believes could happen as early as mid-June, Ukraine will switch to counter-attacks, as it did around Kyiv and kharkiv, forcing Putin’s commanders to the back foot and likely pushing their badly-mauled units backwards – possibly to their own borders.
Even if no counterattacks occur, Russia will be confronted with the prospect of defending a long front line against well-armed and newly-reinforced Ukrainian soldiers who will refuse to surrender, all while Russia’s economy stagnates due to sanctions. It’s the most devastating appraisal of the conflict yet to emerge from Russia, although from a guy who has spent the previous few months slamming Putin and his inner circle on his YouTube and Telegram channels, accusing Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu of “criminal incompetence” and “suspected treachery.”
Strelkov’s narrative also corroborates what many Western analysts and specialists have been saying for weeks: that Putin effectively lost the war the moment he failed to seize Kyiv, and the only question now is how much blood and cash he is ready to spend to save face.
‘Let’s pretend for a moment that the enemy is finally defeated in the next several weeks by continual frontal and flank operations, and totally pushed out of [Donbas] boundaries,’
Strelkov said on Telegram late Thursday.
‘When [Russian troops] are weakened by intense fighting and violent assaults, they will be met by new and well-equipped [Ukrainian] units at boundaries that have been prepared for defence in advance,’ he continues.
‘Even if those new forces decide not to take the lead and launch a counter-offensive for whatever reason, the Russian Federation will face the prospect of a long positional war, which is practically lethal (in current circumstances) to our economy, social, and socio-political situation.
‘It’s pointless to hope for victory via attrition when nearly the entire continent of Europe and North America is acting as a rearguard for [Ukraine],’ Strelkov concluded.
‘As a result, ground engagements will be essential to try to defeat the adversary.’ And, pardon me, but with whom and what?! If only the partial mobilisation has been carried out so far?! Nobody seems to have the answers to these questions. There aren’t any, simply because there aren’t any.’
Russia is almost three months into what was meant to be a one-day’special military operation’ to conquer Kiev, decapitate the government, install a pro-Kremlin puppet, and return Ukraine to Moscow’s so-called sphere of influence.
After failing to conquer the capital, Putin’s generals ordered a pullback from northern Ukraine in order to concentrate their efforts on capturing the Donbas region in the east, where conflict between Ukrainian troops and Moscow-backed separatists has raged since 2014.
Strelkov was a driving force behind the fight’s inception, and he served as the defense minister of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), which is now significantly involved in the conflict. The siege of Mariupol, which ended this week after 82 days of siege when the final defenders of the Azovstal steel factory consented to surrender, was led by DPR troops.