Russia’s top commanders ‘terrified’ by Putin’s new battle plans

Ukraine: Vladimir Putin’s position assessed by Richard Dearlove

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Russia’s top war generals are “terrified” of disobeying Vladimir Putin despite fearing they will “lose their remaining armed forces in a slaughter”, a former Moscow professor has claimed. Dr Valery Solovey, a political analyst who was formerly a professor at Moscow’s prestigious Institute of International Relations, a training school for diplomats and spies, claimed the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces had given up hope for the “goal of winning” the war in place of securing the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine and which has been the site of conflict since 2014, as well as protecting Crimea, to the south of the mainland. His comments preempt concern among both sides that more intense fighting in the upcoming months could prove decisive to the conclusion of this conflict.

Ukrainian officials and western analysts believe that Putin is planning to stage a major offensive as early as February as the winter season abates.

Satellite imagery of fortified military structures in the land corridor between Crimea and Kherson, as well to the east in the Zaporizhzhya region, suggest newly-mobilised soldiers will head towards the Donbas through the protected areas in the south, the Institute for the Study of War suggested.

But Dr Solovey, speaking to the pro-opposition Khodorkovsky Live channel, suggested the offensive was more to do with shoring up already-occupied territory more than it concerned capturing or recapturing areas under Ukrainian control.

He claimed Putin’s demand for General Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian Armed Forces of Ukraine as of this month, to unleash “an assault in several directions at once” had evoked deep divisions in his high command, owing in part to their lack of confidence in the chances of success.

He said: “The Army General Staff is terrified by the instructions of the commander-in-chief [Putin]. I am not exaggerating. They are horrified.

“They are afraid to lose the remaining armed forces in the slaughter that they are being dragged into by [Putin’s] order.”

But he added that despite reservations, the General Staff would not dare disobey Putin for fear of being reprimanded.

He said: “Well, they saluted – ‘As you wish, Your Highness, you’re the genius, you know it better than us, you started it all, and our job is to sort it out now’.

“This [offensive] is all planned for February. And Gerasimov, a close ally of defence minister Sergei Shoigu, is the ‘most capable of Russian generals’.”

But, he added, leading figures in the Russian camp “are afraid they won’t make it in time, because Ukraine might obtain new weapons – more dangerous, more modern, offensive [from the West].

Dr Solovey said: “That’s why now is the last chance to try to strike Ukraine, but not with the goal of winning.

“This is very important to understand. There is no [longer] such goal at all. The goal is totally different – to end it in an honourable way. That is, to achieve peace.

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“It’s about keeping a minimum of [Russian gains]. That is Donbas, a part of new territories – not all of them, and to defend Crimea. They are not expecting more.”

Both Ukraine and Russia are preparing for more intense fighting in the upcoming months as the winter conditions subside.

Western powers have made a seismic round of weapons pledges to Ukraine, including Patriot air defence missile systems, hundreds of infantry fighting vehicles and roughly 70 main battle tanks this month.

Russia, meanwhile, is preparing for the arrival of around 200,000 newly-mobilised troops, according to western intelligence.

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