Russia: growing resentment over the war effort?
On the one hand the victory at the Azov steel plant can be seen as a partial success for the Russian army. At the same time there are growing signs that Russia is failing to achieve its war objectives, suffering considerable losses and being pushed back in some areas. Western intelligence services also report that Putin is increasingly interfering in day-to-day military operations. Europe's press speculates about the political pressure on Russia's domestic front.
Russian imperialists upping the pressure
Defeats like the one at the Siverskyi Donets, where dozens of tanks were destroyed, will reinforce the nationalist hardliners in Russia in their demands for victory, wPolityce fears:
“They use the same superpower rhetoric as Putin, they hate Ukraine just as much and like him they want the war to continue. But they see what the whole world sees and what most Russians do not yet see: the terrible state of the Russian army, its disastrous leadership and the humiliating defeats that can no longer be concealed. They are convinced that if they do not defeat Ukraine now, they won't get another chance. That is why they are getting louder and more determined.”
Frustration in his own ranks
Strong criticism is coming from an unexpected source, writes Novaya Gazeta Europa:
“Igor Girkin-Strelkov, a leader of the hard right-wing, ultra-nationalist circle, has long been saying [on social media] that the Russian operation in Ukraine is a war, that it is being very badly handled in terms of the art of war (which is absolutely right), and that those waging it are totally incompetent. Lately, he has been saying that Putin is interfering more and more in the commanding of troops and making decisions on where to send this or that battalion. Putin has no military training, he acts and makes decisions based on gut feeling. ... The commanders must follow the president's orders. And their fear prevents them from criticising his incompetence.”
Commander Putin will fail as Hitler did
If Western intelligence reports that Vladimir Putin is making decisions about the military strategy in Ukraine, this is a sign of weakness, says Denník N:
“A certain Adolf Hitler once did the same thing. His campaign didn't go according to plan either. He no longer trusted his generals and increasingly interfered with their decisions from his bunker. ... Putin is now making the same mistake. If he believes he has the brilliance and skills to lead an army, this is also a clear sign that he is aware of the problems and failures. ... And once a frightened dictator starts engaging in this kind of micromanagement, the rest of the world has reason to be optimistic.”
Kremlin could use Azov soldiers to claim victory
The Kremlin could portray the capture of members of the Azov Battalion as a major victory, Spotmedia points out:
“The Azov Battalion has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, but also a potential way out for Putin. The main slogan in the Kremlin's propaganda was 'denazification', which was used to justify the invasion of the neighbouring country. ... Putin, who couldn't plausibly claim that his authoritarian regime felt threatened by Kyiv's liberalism, came up with the theory of Ukrainian Nazism. The Azov Battalion, formed in 2014 by volunteers who signed up to fight the Moscow-backed Russian separatists in the east of the country, became the 'personification of Nazism'.”