Putin faces “desertion problems” while Russian officers bicker among themselves over Ukraine’s strategy

Russian President Vladimir Putin is facing desertion problems in the country’s military as many commanding officers complain about Moscow’s lack of strategy amid Ukraine’s fierce counter-offensives, a US official said.

John Kirby, the National Security Council’s White House strategic communications coordinator, said during an appearance on CNN on Wednesday that the desertion problem is being caused by low morale and problems within the Russian command.

“[Putin is] battle. [The Russian military has] poor unit cohesion, desertions in the ranks, soldiers who don’t want to fight,” Kirby said in an interview. “He has terrible morale, unit cohesion on the battlefield, command and control are still not resolved. He has desertion problems, forcing the wounded back into combat. So quite clearly: Manpower is a problem for him.”

In addition to mobilization issues, Russian soldiers are at odds among themselves over a lack of decisions by Moscow on where to strengthen its defense lines amid Ukraine’s counteroffensive, CNN reported, citing sources familiar with US intelligence.

Since launching its counter-offensive earlier this month, the Ukrainian army is said to have retaken 6,000 square kilometers of territory from the Russians. According to reports, the Ukrainian troops forced the Russians to withdraw from several towns and settlements in the Kharkiv region, including Izium and Kupiansk.

On Monday, the Russian military also lost full control of the eastern Luhansk region after Ukraine captured the village of Bilohorivka near the city of Lysychansk, the Kyiv Post reported, citing Serghii Haidai, Ukraine’s Luhansk region governor.

According to reports, the Ukrainian army is now trying to liberate the town of Lyman, which fell to the Russian military in May. Several villages in the city have since been recaptured by Kiev’s forces, the New York Times reported.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and since then Moscow’s armed forces have lost 55,510 soldiers, according to estimates by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. However, the Kremlin said that only 5,937 soldiers died in the war.

Depiction. A Russian soldier in the port of Berdyansk in south-eastern Ukraine.AFP / Yuri KADOBNOV

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