Chaos in Russia lifts Ukraine’s morale as it continues its counteroffensive

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The armed rebellion against the Russian military may have ended in less than 24 hours, but the disarray in enemy ranks was an unexpected gift and a timely boost to Ukrainian troop morale

The spectacle of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny in the critical military command and control center in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, and later Russia’s rush to fortify Moscow as troops marched to overthrow the country’s military leadership were greeted “with applause” by commanders of Ukraine’s Eastern Forces Group, said its spokesman, Serhii Cherevatiy.

“Soldiers on the front line are positive about it,” he said. “All chaos and disorder on the side of the enemy benefits us.”

A video of well-known Ukrainian drone commander “Magyar” watching the revolt while eating huge amounts of popcorn has gone viral. A plethora of cheerful memes mocking Russian leader Vladimir Putin have flooded social media, and statement after statement from senior Ukrainian brass has described the unrest as a sure sign of greater instability to come.

The debacle appears to be resolved, for now, with Prigozhin’s exile to Belarus under a Minsk-brokered deal. But for Ukrainians watching, the damage was done: Russian vulnerabilities were exposed, and in accepting concessions hours after calling Prigozhin a traitor, Putin appeared weak and desperate.

The short-lived rebellion did not noticeably affect the posture of the Russian army along the 1,000 kilometer (600 mile) front line in eastern Ukraine, but it could give Ukraine the impetus it needs to step up its counter-offensive, which military leaders say is going slower than expected.

“In the short term, it took the focus away from the war and diverted some resources from the front,” said Nigel Gould-Davies, senior Russia and Eurasia fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Affairs. But in the longer term, he said, it shows a lack of unity among Russia’s fighting forces. “It’s terrible for Russia’s morale. Both officers and soldiers. It’s very good for Ukraine’s morale.

On Russian Telegram channels, bloggers urged Russian soldiers to stay focused on the war. “Brothers! All who hold a weapon in the line of contact, remember that your enemy is in front of you,” one message read.

Ukrainian soldier Andrii Kvasnytsia, 50, who was injured fighting in the eastern town of Bakhmut, where fighting is ongoing along the southern flanks of the salt mining town occupied by Russian troops, said: ” Everyone is excited.”

“My friend called me today and he said, ‘Andrii, I haven’t had a drink in so many years, but today I have a good reason to drink. he says, “Everything is difficult, not easy, but we will definitely win.” He spoke to The Associated Press in Kyiv, where he is recovering.

As Wagner’s troops marched towards Moscow, Hanna Malyar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, announced progress in several directions along the front line where fighting has raged for weeks, and that Russian advances more to the north were thwarted.

“The enemy’s weakness is always a window of opportunity, it allows us to take advantage,” she told AP, adding that it was too early to assess how the political game is playing out. in Russia could give Ukraine the military advantage.

Ukraine stepped up attacks from several directions in the southeast earlier this month, a move that signaled that its long-awaited counteroffensive had begun. But progress has been “slower than desired,” acknowledged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said last week that a new reserve army would be formed by the end of June, bolstering Russian troops along the Ukrainian front, where Russia has committed 90% of its forces. forces and already greatly exceeds the number of Ukrainian fighters.

Experts said the Ukrainians must maintain flexibility and speed to exploit Russian vulnerabilities along the front line and break through defense lines when the opportunity arises.

With modern NATO-standard weapons systems in their possession, morale is the necessary ingredient to get the speed Ukrainian troops need to change the dynamics on the ground, they say.

“This is going to be a real boost for Ukrainians,” said James Nixey, Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia program manager. “While we said the Ukrainians have a lot to fight for, they’ve been a little low on morale lately.”

Ukrainian commanders told their fighters that the discord in Russia was, indirectly, their fault. “The heroes of Bakhmut who held the city for 10 months and exhausted the enemy, they are the co-authors of this failed Russian epic,” Cherevatiy said.

The truth is more complicated. The long-standing rivalry between Prigozhin and Russian military rulers predates the full-scale invasion, but Wagner’s relative effectiveness against regular army troops fighting in the city raised Prigozhin’s profile and made him may have given the confidence to go forward with the rebellion.

Yet the message resonates among Ukrainian military ranks as it prepares for the next decisive push in the war.

In the Zaporizhzhia region of southeastern Ukraine on Sunday, soldiers from a mortar unit fired at Russian targets from their positions, dedicating each explosion to grievances caused by Russia.

“For the Kakhovka dam!” shouted a Ukrainian special forces serviceman with the call sign Rhein, referring to the catastrophic dam collapse blamed on Russia earlier this month that submerged entire Ukrainian communities.


Mystyslav Chernov in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, and Danica Kirka in London contributed.


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