Recent developments in southern Ukraine have revealed deficiencies and dissent among Russia’s military leadership, as illustrated by the loss of two generals within 24 hours and the absence of another key commander.
General 1: Lt. Gen. Oleg Tsokov, the deputy commander of the Southern Military District and a crucial figure in Russia’s defense of occupied areas in southern Ukraine, was killed when a Ukrainian missile struck a hotel in Berdyansk. Tsokov’s presence in the targeted hotel, which served as the headquarters for the 58th Combined Arms Army unit, was known, highlighting a potential lapse in operational security. The 58th unit plays a vital role in defending the front lines in the Zaporizhzhia region, where Ukrainian forces are intensifying their counteroffensive.
General 2: Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov, commander of the 58th unit, released a four-minute audio message expressing his discontent with Russia’s military leadership. Popov criticized what he viewed as treachery and inadequacies leading to significant casualties among his troops. His message shed light on major shortcomings in Russian defenses, which the Ukrainians have been targeting with long-range attacks on rear positions. Russian military bloggers have suggested that both Tsokov and Popov were respected leaders who inspired loyalty among their soldiers.
The loss of commanders who inspire loyalty is not only concerning but potentially hazardous for Russia’s military operations.
These incidents involving the 58th unit are not isolated occurrences. The Wagner mutiny in late June raised questions about the effectiveness and loyalty of several high-ranking figures, some of whom have since disappeared from public view.
General 3: Gen. Oleg Surovikin, the head of Russia’s Aerospace Forces and a former commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, has also been absent from the public eye since the Wagner rebellion. Amid speculation about his status, Andrei Kartapolov, the Head of the State Duma Committee on Defense, stated that Surovikin was “resting” and unavailable. This raises curiosity about the commander’s absence during a challenging war situation.
The loss of key commanders, dissent within the military ranks, and the absence of prominent figures like Surovikin indicate cracks in Moscow’s military structure and raise concerns about the effectiveness and loyalty of the leadership during ongoing conflicts in Ukraine.