On a Russian talk show, the retired colonel surprises his colleagues by saying that the invasion is not going well

A military analyst on one of the most popular Russian state television networks stunned his fellow panelists Monday when he said the conflict in Ukraine was deteriorating for Russia, giving the kind of honest assessment that is all but banished from the airwaves. official radio.

“The situation for us will clearly get worse,” Mikhail M. Khodaryonok, a retired colonel and conservative columnist on military affairs, said during the talk show “60 Minutes” on the Rossiya network.

It was a rare moment of frank analysis in a country where criticizing the war effort can result in a prison sentence and broadcasters have generally stuck to the Kremlin’s talking points.

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Problems that Khodaryonok addressed, sometimes obliquely, included low morale, the variety of Western countries aligned against Russia, and the number of fighters and materiel Ukraine was amassing.

“We are in total geopolitical isolation, and the whole world is against us, even if we don’t want to admit it,” Khodaryonok said, noting that Russia’s “political-military and military-technical resources are limited.”

He urged Russians not to take “informational sedatives.” The clip was first highlighted by Francis Scarr of BBC Monitoring, which tracks Russian broadcasts. Khodaryonok did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

In addition to questioning Russia’s position, it was a notable moment because Khodaryonok noted that Ukraine seemed to have momentum. The Russians wrongly tended to try to extrapolate the problems of a few soldiers in the Ukrainian army to denigrate their entire army, he said. In fact, they were ready to deploy 1 million men if they were given enough weapons, they were highly motivated, and they would receive an increasing amount of military support from the United States and Europe, he added.

News talk shows in Russia are generally a shouting match, with half a dozen panelists competing to drown out the others. In this episode, however, the other panelists were left in stunned silence. Only Olga Skabeyeva, the hostess, who religiously toes the Kremlin line, interrupted with official talking points in sometimes tense exchanges.

He attempted to point out that support from China and India was as good as support from Europe, that perhaps professional soldiers were superior to conscripts, and that Russia “had no other choice,” the Kremlin’s standard justification for its invasion by presenting Ukraine as a threat. .

Khodaryonok appeared to be careful not to say anything openly critical of the Russian side, repeatedly emphasizing that the entire situation was “not normal.” When it came to questions of morale, for example, he went back in history and pointed out that Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin had said that high morale was an important factor for success on the battlefield. He did not directly address recent indications that the Russian military is suffering from morale problems.

In March, Russia criminalized denouncing its war effort, even referring to it as a war instead of a “special military operation.”

Khodaryonok has criticized Russian military operations in the past. In an unusual column published in early February, before the invasion, he warned against it, saying it would not be the rosy road many Russian analysts expected and that it was not in Russia’s “national interests.”

He accurately predicted that the Ukrainians would fight hard to defend their country and that the West would provide a large number of weapons. “There will be no blitzkrieg in the Ukraine,” he wrote in Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, a supplement to a Russian weekly on military affairs.

Even earlier, about a year after Russia sent its army to Syria in 2015 to support President Bashar Assad, he wrote a column for an online news service, Gazeta.Ru, suggesting that the Syrian army was an unworthy ally and pointing out his lack of military success and corruption.

However, regarding the war in Ukraine, he previously praised the Russian effort.

In comments on his Telegram channel posted just a week ago, he said military theorists for years to come would study the special operation as something “unique.” He said that Russian advances in the eastern Donbas region are due to the discipline, training and morale of its military, as well as the effectiveness of its artillery. He also repeated the baseless Russian claim that the Ukrainian side was fomenting the Nazis.

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