Ukrainian surge throws Kremlin propagandists into disarray
Some advocate starting peace talks while others demand retaliation — all as Ukrainian troops advance.
Ukrainian troops filmed themselves retaking posts along the border with Russia — a sign of the frantic evacuation of the occupying army from the region around the country’s second city of Kharkiv after Ukraine’s startling counterattack last week.
The incontrovertible evidence of the Russian army’s failure is creating unprecedented disarray among Moscow propagandists who both reflect and shape public opinion, while spurring euphoria in Ukraine.
“Very many skeptics have begun a total re-evaluation — and soon they will rush to be friends with us,” said Alexei Arestovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The atmosphere is a lot sourer in Moscow.
Speaking on a live chat show, former Duma deputy Boris Nadezhdin said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been misled by his advisers that Ukraine would be easy to conquer and that Russian troops would be greeted as liberators.
“We have to understand that it is absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine using those resources and colonial war methods with which Russia is trying to wage war,” he said on the broadcast tracked by Julia Davis, a journalist who created the Russian Media Monitor.
“A strong army is opposing the Russian army,” he said, adding that Russia should begin peace talks.
But others are advocating an even more ruthless approach to Ukraine.
State Duma Deputy Sergey Mironov called the Kyiv government “a Nazi regime” and said it “had to be destroyed.”
Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the English-language broadcaster RT and who is under sanction by the EU, called on Russian forces to attack Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure — something that’s a war crime.
“There are nuclear power plants there, a lot of infrastructure which can be disabled … very quickly and easily, and for a long time,” she said in a Sunday night broadcast. “People ask me, why don’t we do that? I have no answer. Perhaps now is the time to do this?”
That’s the approach that the stunned Russian military is adopting in a bid to exact revenge for its humiliating retreat. Russian missiles rained down on Kharkiv on Sunday, hitting a power generating station and plunging the city into darkness for several hours. Power was also partially knocked out in the regions of Poltava, Sumy and Dnipropetrovsk.
On Monday afternoon, Kharkiv faced a new blackout.
“Last night’s situation has been repeated. Due to shelling, critical infrastructure facilities were disabled, as a result of which both power and water supply was halted,” said the city’s Mayor Ihor Terekhov.
Igor Girkin, the former Russian officer who was one of the instigators of the 2014 war in eastern Ukraine, called the strikes on the power plants “very useful.”
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Russia’s “barbaric shelling … once again proved that we confront terrorists.”
But the Russian retaliation isn’t slowing the Ukrainian military, which on Monday continued to advance against the Russians, while social media was filled with films of Ukrainian troops taking vast amounts of abandoned ammunition, tanks and weapons.
Over the weekend, the Russians pulled back from most of Kharkiv region, allowing the Ukrainians to push their troops right to the international border. Although the Russians are trying to form a new defensive line along the Oskil River in the east of the region, there are reports that it has already been penetrated by the Ukrainian military.
The Ukrainian defense ministry also said that four villages had been retaken near Kherson in the south of the country.
Girkin said that Ukrainian artillery was firing on the village of Novomykhailivka, not far from the city of Donetsk, which is one of Russia’s main conquests from 2014.
Arestovich said “the phase of breakthrough, rapid advance, tsunami” is being replaced by “a phase of consolidation of results as well as battles for the most beneficial frontiers — as springboards for the next jumps.”
He warned that attacking civilian targets would only bring more aid from Ukraine’s allies and “accelerate the fall of the Putin regime.” /Politico/