Russian forces still control the wider Kherson region, which forms part of Putin’s coveted “land bridge” from mainland Russia to illegally annexed Crimea, but pro-Kremlin figures say Russia will stay. After repeated fiery proclamations, the confiscation of the capital is a stunning blow”forever” in Khersonian.
Moscow’s hardline pro-war opponents, including nationalist military bloggers, called the city’s surrender a “betrayal” and a “dark day.” After Congress approved Putin’s annexation plan, Kherson was written into the Russian constitution as part of Russia, along with other illegally annexed territories.
Kherson’s flag, along with three other regional flags, was recently hoisted during a ceremony in the House of Commons.
While other leaders could be severely affected, the Kremlin has spent weeks trying to shirk Putin from responsibility and isolate him from political influence, carefully preparing the Russian public for a shock. I prepared. Still, there were signs that Putin wasn’t entirely absolving responsibility and that Kherson’s defeat could fuel opposition to the war.
“I think this will seriously complicate how the situation is viewed in the country,” said one influential Moscow businessman. “It’s a serious loss.”
“For Russia, these losses have a sacred nature,” added the businessman. ‘Huge hit to Putin’s image’
The withdrawal from the city of Kherson is the latest in a string of Putin’s military collapses, including Russia’s failure to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv early in the war and Ukrainian lightning strikes of Russian troops from northeast Kharkov in September. rice field.
The loss of territory in Kharkov prompted Putin to declare a disorderly conscription campaign, causing hundreds of thousands of soldiers to flee Russia and tens of thousands of poorly trained soldiers to fight in Ukraine.
Analysts say that many ordinary Russians still see Mr. Putin as a clever, tsar-like man who loves his country, but has been let down time and time again by malicious and incompetent officials. Surrender.
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But the many military failures of unnecessary wars are clear to Moscow’s elite billionaires and state officials. Equally evident are the political difficulties caused by Putin’s annexation, a grave violation of international law and now exposed as a delusion.
Amid military withdrawals, failed mobilizations, growing economic hardships and rising casualties, Moscow is increasingly signaling readiness for negotiations with Ukraine. While Kyiv is sticking to his position that it must accept illegal seizures of its territory, negotiations are unlikely.
Putin said on Wednesday that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the commander-in-chief of the Russian Army in Ukraine, Colonel Sergey Slovikin, held an awkward, robotic dialogue on Russia 24 state television, announcing the decision to abandon Kherson “to save lives.” did not attend because it was formalized.
When Shoigu approved the surrender, Putin visited the Federal Center for Brain and Neurotechnology to mark the 75th anniversary of the Federal Agency for Medicine and Biology. It was unclear whether the Russian president had been completely out of touch, or had intentionally kept them out of reach of military decisions.
Former Kremlin adviser Sergei Markov, in an interview, described Kherson’s surrender as “the biggest geopolitical defeat for Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” citing Putin’s personal assurance that the territories would always be part of Russia. Mentioned.
“Of course, this takes a toll on the public’s mood,” Markov said. “It’s a tribute to Putin and a blow to optimism.”
But Putin remains guarded by his fellow security and military leaders and shows no signs of turning.
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Andrei Kolesnikov, a political analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recently compared Putin’s increasingly closed and paranoid behavior to Stalin in his last years, where “all decisions are made by one person.” did.
But despite the outrage of hardliners over Kherson’s surrender, Kolesnikov seems convinced, at least for now, by the military’s explanation that ordinary Russians need surrender to save their lives. said it looked like
Putin’s popularity has been “pretty strong”, recovering to 79% last month after falling to 77% from 83% in September when mobilization failed.
A Russian state official said the decision to surrender Kherson “means there is still rational thinking in the command. There is hope that negotiations are ready.
However, the secretary of state added that he did not believe Putin would not accept Ukraine’s terms of withdrawing Russian troops from Ukraine entirely or withdrawing them to pre-war fronts.
Many members of the elite are privately critical of Putin’s disastrous war and the resulting sanctions, voicing Russia’s hardline pro-war supporters and desperate for an end to the off-ramp and global exclusion. It highlights the division between corporate executives and bureaucrats who want to
The businessman said Moscow hoped the Ukrainian resistance would collapse in the winter due to missile attacks on Ukrainian civilian energy facilities, but there is no evidence that this will happen.
Another prominent Russian businessman said he believed the Biden administration was pressuring Ukraine to start negotiations, saying Wednesday night that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark A. It quoted a comment as offering a “window of opportunity”. The side that initiates negotiations. But Western officials say it is Kyiv’s decision.
Russians are tired of war and Putin’s position was “on the brink of catastrophe,” said a second businessman.
“From a military point of view, there are a lot of corpses. Putin likely noticed, he added.
Risks are rising for Putin, he said. “If he loses any more territory, it will be a complete disgrace to him. It will be the end for him personally. It will be the end for him politically.”
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Analyst Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the R. Politik Political Analysis Group, said the sense of betrayal among Russia’s “parties to the war” poses no threat to Putin. his condition.
Stanovaya said Putin only wanted to buy time until Western support for Ukraine wore off, while Kolesnikov dismissed signals that Putin was willing to negotiate as “pure PR”, suggesting that both sides would He said it was too far away.
Stanovaya said Putin did not expect Russia to win the war by military means, but he saw Ukraine as a non-state that would eventually collapse.
The liberation of the city of Kherson has fueled speculation about how far Ukrainian forces will advance by winter. The Kyiv army has also made some advances in the east.
Former Kremlin adviser Markov said Putin would try to hold on to the remaining annexed territories if the Russian military was bolstered with trained troops in the coming months. It was not clear if they could be equipped with the weapons they needed, he said.
“If he discovers that the Russian economy is unable to give these armies military technology, he will be forced to start peace talks,” Markov said, adding that Putin said Russia would It added that it may be forced to accept withdrawal to the positions it held before the war…24 aggression. This includes the provincial capitals of Luhansk and Donetsk, which the Russian-backed separatists have ruled since his 2014.
“A withdrawal to the Rhine on 24 February would be considered a serious loss, but not a surrender,” he said. “It will be very tough conditions. But it is possible.”
Dixon reported from Riga, Latvia and Belton from London.