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Ukraine War: Top Russian General Blasts Defence Leaders, Says He Was Fired For Criticising Poor Leadership

General Ivan Popov, a top Russian military officer, said he was fired from his command after he flagged the shortage of weapons and the poor direction of the Ukraine War.

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In the latest sign of turmoil in the Russian military, a top general has blasted the country's defence leadership and has claimed that he was fired after he highlighted the shortage of weapons and the poor war progress. 

After General Ivan Popov was removed as the commander of Russia's 58th Army, he was seen in a video as saying that he was fired after he criticised Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu's handling of the war. Notably, Shogun was also the main target of Yevgeny Prigozhin-led Wagner Group's mutiny last month. 

Popov's unit was in-charge of the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine. The Ukrainian counter-offensive has progressed slowly in the region. Despite that, Popov was removed and he said that while the Ukrainians could not hit them in the front, their own defence leaders struck them in the back.

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Popov's accusations come at a time when a series of Russian generals are reported to have been detained after Prigozhin's mutiny. The day-long mutiny, in which Prigozhin's private army captured two key cities and reached within 200 kms of Moscow unopposed, came as the biggest threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin's authority in Russia. Experts told Outlook that while the mutiny was not a direct challenge to Putin, it laid bare the faultiness within the Russian government and squabbling elite and Putin's failure to contain them.

Allegations of Popov are similar to those made by Prigozhin. For several weeks before the mutiny, Prigozhin issued expletive-laden messages about the Russian defence leadership. He accused Russian defence leaders of holding back the arms and ammunition. The immediate trigger for the mutiny, as per Prigozhin, was an alleged airstrike by the Russian military that killed several Wagner personnel. 

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What did Gen. Popov say?

In a video that appeared on Telegram channel of Russian legislator Andrei Gurulev on Wednesday, Popov is seen saying he is still in touch with the soldiers.

Pope goes on to charge the Russian defence leadership of betraying their own soldiers. He is critical of the direction the Ukraine War is going into.

"As many regiment and division commanders have said today, the Ukrainian Armed Forces failed to breach us on the frontline, but instead we have been struck from the rear by our own senior commander (Shoigu) treacherously and despicably. Defanging the army at the most difficult and tense moment," The Drive quotes Popov as saying, citing a translation of the original video.

Popov complained about "the absence of counter-battery warfare, absence of artillery reconnaissance stations, and massive sheep's death of our brethren from the enemy's artillery". He also said that he remains in touch with "all soldiers, sergeants and officers of the Army".

While the Russian military formation he commanded has been holding off a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Zaporizhzhia region, “we were hit in the rear by our senior commander, who treacherously and vilely decapitated our army at the most difficult and tense moment”, said Popov, reported The New York Times, adding that Popov here was likely referring to Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, chief of the armed forces.

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Popov said he ended up in a “difficult situation” with the Russian military’s leadership, in which he had to choose whether he would be a coward, who would tell his superiors only what they wanted to hear, or would “call a spade a spade”, NYT reported him as saying, adding that Popov told his troops he had no right to lie in their name, or in the names of those who had died, and therefore “outlined all the problematic issues that exist in the army in the current day in terms of combat work and support”.

“Apparently, in connection with this, the senior commanders felt some kind of danger in me and swiftly, in a single day’s light, concocted an order from the Minister of Defense that removed me from the deployment and got rid of me,” said Popov, as per NYT.

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Russian generals detained for questioning: Reports

Since short-lived mutiny of Prigozhin-led Wagner Group last month, a number of senior Russian generals have been detained for questioning, according to reports.

Reports have also said that there is also a purge going on in the Russian military as part of the broader turmoil.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who has been reported to be aware of the Wagner mutiny, was one of "at least 13 senior officers were detained for questioning, with some later released, and around 15 suspended from duty or fired" in the wake of Prigozhin's mutiny. 

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