Fissures are growing among Vladimir Putin’s cronies over the Russian president’s military leadership and whether nuclear weapons should be used in Ukraine.
As Ukrainian troops pounded the town of Lyman over the weekend, Ramzan Kadyrov, a longtime Putin ally and leader of Chechnya, slammed Putin’s rapprochement there, criticizing the withdrawal of Russian troops and Russian Central Military District commander Alexander Lapin.
“It’s not a shame that Lapin is mediocre, but the fact that he’s being protected at the top by the chiefs of the general staff,” he said Saturday, taking a swipe at the entire operation. “Nepotism has no place in the army, especially not in difficult times.”
Another key Putin ally, Evgeniy Prigozhin, Putin’s so-called “cook” who helped orchestrate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in the United States and who heads the Wagner mercenary group, also appears to be opposed to Putin’s strategy in Ukraine to have.
“Send all these pieces of junk barefoot with machine guns straight to the front,” Prigozhin said, referring to Putin’s army bosses.
Public criticism from key Putin supporters comes as Russia works to project unity and power onto the world stage. After a series of battlefield defeats in Ukraine, Putin launched partial mobilization to bolster the war effort and held mock referendums to try to illegally annex territories in Ukraine.
Internal divisions are increasing. Kadyrov also said that Russia should use a low-yield nuclear weapon in Ukraine. But the Kremlin is now hitting him back, suggesting that Kadyrov has become too emotional and that cooler heads should prevail.
“The heads of Russian regions have the authority to state their point of view and make assessments,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday. But “even in the most difficult moments, emotion should probably be excluded from any commentary.”
The Kremlin’s attempt to distance itself from Kadyrov’s combative stance comes just days after Russia’s efforts to illegally annex several regions in Ukraine. The move has set off alarm bells over whether the Kremlin will consider Ukrainian counter-offensives to retake the regions as attacks on Russian territory.
Russia’s nuclear doctrine states that Russia’s use of nuclear weapons should be used in self-defense. But Russian officials have reiterated in recent weeks that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons if there is an existential threat to the country or if there is an attack on Russia, even if the attack uses only conventional weapons.
And Russia has made it clear that it will defend the newly annexed regions in Ukraine – the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions – with “all the means at its disposal”.
Putin himself has hinted at Russia’s possible interest in using nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
The split between Kadyrov, Prigozhin and the Kremlin seems symbolic of major problems in Moscow’s approach to Ukraine in the eighth month of the war. Despite Russia holding its sham referendums in Ukraine last week, the Kremlin acknowledged on Monday that Russia is not necessarily confident about which territories it specifically claims as Russian, Peskov said. Russia does not control the territories it annexes, and Peskov suggested the Kremlin must ask around about what borders it will claim as its own, indicating the illegal annexation process may not be going as smoothly as Moscow had anticipated.
“We will continue to consult the population of these regions,” said Peskov.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/putin-allies-ramzan-kadyrov-and-evgeniy-prigozhin-mock-vladimir-putins-war-failures?source=articles&via=rss Putin allies Ramzan Kadyrov and Evgeniy Prigozhin mock Vladimir Putin’s war failures in Ukraine