Soldier-spy ‘Strelkov’ snipes from the sidelines at Russia’s setbacks in Ukraine – POLITICO

In April 2014, a former Russian soldier and spy who assumed the nom-de-guerre of Igor Strelkov captured the jap Ukrainian metropolis of Sloviansk with a band of irregular troops and went on to change into protection minister of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic.

Now, he’s telling the Kremlin that the full-scale offensive launched by Russian forces this week to seize your complete Donbas area — with vastly larger numbers and firepower — is at severe threat of failure.

These days, Strelkov (‘Shooter’), whose actual identify is Igor Girkin, is sniping from the sidelines, showing in a trademark black shirt on YouTube and different social media to intone in his sonorous baritone on the failings in President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” to beat Ukraine.

“We must ask ourselves,” writes Strelkov in his newest screed on Telegram, “does the superiority of the Russian Federation’s armed forces in aviation and heavy weapons guarantee victory over an enemy, for whom our offensive plans are obvious, which is prepared for defense and has high morale?”

“My answer is NO — there is no guarantee.”

In a rustic the place freedom of speech is being crushed, Russians whose conflict goals are much more excessive than the Kremlin’s nonetheless seem to have a license to air their views. And Strelkov, 51, is making many of the alternative, posting the three-part takedown of Russia’s conflict prospects on Wednesday on his Telegram channel. (Here are elements two and three.)

Strelkov penned the piece on the request of a comrade getting back from the entrance, who requested him to take action “without getting into the jungle of military science.”

He obliged, writing plainly that Russia, having been compelled right into a “large-scale retreat” from Kyiv within the north, dangers an analogous destiny after concentrating its forces within the east to launch a second assault. Moscow lacks the numbers, firepower and air assist to maintain a swift advance. And its troops are prone to outrun their provide traces and find yourself being ambushed by the Ukrainian defenders.

Strelkov concludes: “Without at least a partial mobilization in the Russian Federation, it will be impossible and highly dangerous to launch a deep strategic offensive against the so-called ‘Ukraine.’ We must prepare for a long and difficult war.”

Truth to energy

Western analysts looking for clues as to Russia’s subsequent steps are listening to Strelkov, who has been charged with homicide by a Dutch court docket over the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over jap Ukraine in July 2014. Although Strelkov holds no official place, he shows among the mastery of decoding Kremlin considering proven by Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

The nationalist firebrand, who died earlier this month, was filmed three years in the past slicing a Ukraine-shaped birthday cake and saying Russia ought to annex the jap two-thirds of the nation. Last December, Zhirinovsky predicted the Russian invasion in February virtually to the day.

In Ukraine, the place he’s hated, Strelkov is considered as a conduit for Russian propaganda: his overt patriotism giving him the duvet to interrupt dangerous information that the Kremlin can later acknowledge.

Putin on Thursday referred to as off an assault on Ukrainian forces holding out at a steelworks within the besieged southern port metropolis of Mariupol, which Russian troops have didn’t seize utterly after sustaining heavy losses in practically two months of conflict. “This is the case when we must think — that is, we must always think, but in this case even more so – about preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers,” Putin instructed Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Strelkov, who sports activities a pencil mustache and a neat parting, remained silent within the early phases of the conflict. But, after concluding that the Russian invasion was vulnerable to turning right into a bloody debacle, he has aired his views freely and instantly.

“That the operation wasn’t going to plan became obvious on about the fifth day. On the sixth day, I received a lot of information, and I understood that my instincts were absolutely right,” he mentioned in a video interview on the finish of March. “The operation is clearly not going to plan, because the plan was full of contradictions.”

Russia’s assault was primarily based on a deeply flawed evaluation of Ukraine; assumed that its military wouldn’t struggle or would defect; and counted on the individuals shifting their allegiance to Russia. “The operation is stuck on all fronts,” he concluded.

If Russia is unable to win, it should “simply drown in the Ukrainian mud,” added Strelkov. His logic goes as follows: No compromise is feasible with Ukraine. The nation’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is totally below the management of the United States. And Washington is telling Zelenskyy that Ukraine should struggle “until Russia falls apart.”

He returned to the theme in an April 12 interview, warning that signing a peace deal and withdrawing troops “will mean our capitulation.”

Russian troops within the north have suffered the identical destiny because the Soviet Red Army within the Winter War with Finland in 1939-40, says Strelkov, whereas within the Donbas he doubts that they are going to be capable of encompass the Ukrainian troops. “If our forces advance at the speed of a limping invalid this could take a long time,” he says.

Two days later he mocks Russia’s ministry of protection for threatening to hit strategic targets in Kyiv in retaliation in opposition to Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory. He compares it to “trying to scare a hedgehog by showing it your bare bottom.”

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