A senior Russian-appointed official in Ukraine on Thursday blamed the country’s military setbacks on incompetence and corruption within the top ranks of the Kremlin’s defense apparatus.
In a searing 4-minute video posted to the encrypted messaging application Telegram, Kirill Stremousov, the Moscow-installed deputy leader of Ukraine’s Kherson region, largely occupied by Russia, blamed military losses in his jurisdiction on “incompetent commanders” who have not been held accountable for their mistakes.
Stremousov’s comments come as Kyiv is successfully pushing ahead in its campaign to retake parts of southern and eastern Ukraine that Russia captured in the initial weeks of the war.
Pro-Russian propagandists and military analysts have blamed the string of losses on what they see as mistakes by the Russian military, but few Russian-installed officials on Ukrainian soil have so publicly skewered Moscow’s flailing war effort.
Stremousov alleged that a “small number” of what he called “corrupt marauders and other miscellaneous riffraff” were responsible for “gaps” on the battlefield. He singled out Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, saying he “allowed this situation to happen.”
Members of Russia’s parliament and regional officials have begun to level similar criticisms at the Russian military, alleging that not enough troops were deployed to hold the parts of eastern and southern Ukraine that Russian forces captured in the initial weeks of the conflict.
Col. Gen. Andrei Kartapolov, the head of Russia’s State Duma Defense Committee, said Thursday officials need to “stop lying” about developments on the ground.
“People know. Our people are not stupid,” Kartapolov said in an interview with a Russian journalist.
The leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, criticized Russia’s withdrawal on Saturday from the strategic eastern city of Lyman in the region of Donetsk. Kadyrov, a key ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Russian troops “were not provided with the necessary communication, interaction and the supply of ammunition.”
Kherson and Donetsk are two of the four regions Russia is planning to annex in violation of international law. Donetsk and Luhansk are both in eastern Ukraine, and fighting against Moscow-backed breakaway republics in each region has been raging since 2014. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are in southern Ukraine and have been occupied by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began in late February.
Ukraine’s military has made significant gains in Kherson in the past week, liberating more than 400 square kilometers (155 square miles) in an unspecified time frame, a Ukrainian military spokeswoman said. Stremousov denied this. He said Russian troops were “holding back the onslaught” and Ukraine’s advances “had been stopped.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the communities of Novovoskrensenske, Novohryhorivka and Petropavlivka had been liberated, suggesting that Ukrainian forces are making progress through the region’s largely rural hinterland. Russian units, the Ukrainian military said, were suffering heavy losses in Kherson and on Wednesday were attempting to evacuate wounded servicemen to safety across the Dnipro River, as Kyiv presses further along its west bank.
CNN’s Tim Lister, Uliana Pavlova, Josh Pennington and Alex Stambaugh contributed to this report