The chief of the Russian General Staff (CGS), Valery Gerasimov — who became the overall commander of President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine on January 11 — "is pushing the limits" of the Kremlin's tolerance of failure in the war, the UK Ministry of Defence said on Saturday.
"Gerasimov’s tenure has been characterised by an effort to launch a general winter offensive with the aim of extending Russian control over the whole of the Donbas region. Eighty days on, it is increasingly apparent that this project has failed," the defence ministry said in a statement.
"On several axes across the Donbas front, Russian forces have made only marginal gains at the cost of tens of thousands of casualties, largely squandering its temporary advantage in personnel gained from the autumn’s ‘partial mobilisation’," it continued.
"After ten years as CGS, there is a realistic possibility that Gerasimov is pushing the limits of how far Russia’s political leadership will tolerate failure," it added.
Gerasimov was the fourth commanding general appointed by Putin to oversee the campaign in Ukraine since the war began.
Retired Lt. General Mark Hertling called the appointment of the 67-year-old general "bizarre," telling CNN on the day of the announcement: "It's troubling to me and it's confusing to me why Mr. Putin did this other than potentially to place blame on Gerasimov, who is considered an insider in the Kremlin."
Some context: Russian forces have suffered steep losses in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, and made only incremental gains, Ukrainian officials said earlier this week.
Russia has been pushing hard to capture the city and land a rare if largely symbolic victory.
After failing to make gains elsewhere in the country, Moscow has been focusing its efforts on the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.