The explosion of the Russian general is an earthquake for Vladimir Putin

Major General Ivan Popov

Major General Ivan Popov complained to the Kremlin about the lack of counter-battery fire and artillery reconnaissance –

Major General Ivan Popov may not have wanted his explosive farewell message to the Russian 58th Army to reach the public. It was first sent privately to a former general and deputy from Putin’s party.

But whether he likes it or not, he has revealed a quagmire of paranoia, distrust and resentment that, if left unresolved, could cripple the Russian war machine.

In peacetime, publicly accusing a senior officer of incompetence and treason would be a serious breach of discipline.

To accuse the high command of a “stab in the back” in the midst of a major war – and just weeks after a mutiny nearly overthrew the government – is an entirely different plan of insubordination.

Maj Gen Popov (left)

Major General Popov (left) accused the senior Russian army officer of stabbing the army in the back –

Since the start of the war, Russia’s war effort has been plagued by grumbling against the top brass.

From the start, many of the frustrations of officers and lower- and mid-ranking men were aired publicly on semi-official war blogs.

Later, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the now disgraced leader of Wagner’s mercenaries, emerged as an anger valve over ammunition shortages, poor logistics, and general incompetence.

He has come to relish his role as chief truth-teller, fueling a public feud with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov that came to a head last month.

The result was Wagner’s 24-hour mutiny that nearly ended Vladimir Putin’s 23-year reign in the Kremlin.

Mr. Putin survived. But the fact that Prigozhin is still at large is proof enough that the president’s authority has suffered a fundamental fracture.

Major General Popov’s speech shows that the serious discontent in the ranks goes far beyond Wagner.

The initial grumbling that he says got him fired – that his men were taking heavy enemy artillery casualties due to a lack of counter-battery fire – is standard fare in the Ukrainian and Russian armies.

If the Russian top brass were doing their job, they would be used to receiving such complaints from commanders in the field.

If he’s telling the truth about his dismissal, it points to a culture of paranoia and a toxic fear of passing bad news up the chain of command.

History is littered with the corpses of armies with this problem.

Popov’s voicemail has none of the hysteria that has come to mark Prigozhin’s crude diatribes.

He speaks in the direct, precise and direct manner of a combat officer.


And he has credibility. For a month and a half, he and his men have managed – and even in defiance of the expectations of many Russian commentators – to hold their own in the face of the fury of the Ukrainian counter-offensive.

He clearly feels a connection to his men, calling them his “dear gladiators” (a riff on classic history: his own callsign is Spartacus) and stressing that he sees no difference between the highest general and the lowest private. .

Disgruntled generals with loyal armies are dangerous, as the Kremlin was reminded last month.

Major General Popov can expect to join the ranks of those purged following the Prigozhin mutiny.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that at least 13 senior officers were arrested for questioning, some later released, and about 15 suspended from duty or fired following the attempted coup.

Corrosion works both ways.

On Tuesday this week, the Ukrainians fired a British Storm Shadow missile at the hotel in the occupied city of Berdyansk which the 58th Army was using as its field headquarters.

Popov apparently escaped unscathed.

But even before his stab in the comeback speech, some Russian military bloggers were asking who had the motive to leak his position to the enemy.

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