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Could the Russian People Turn on Putin Over the Ukraine War?

Ukraine
Image of Russian TOS Unit. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

On Monday, Bloomberg opinion columnist and editorial board member for foreign affairs Clara Ferreira Marques warned that Vladimir Putin could soon face an enemy he will be unable to defeat in Ukraine. It isn’t a new Ukrainian Special Forces unit or even a foreign power.

Rather Marques noted that Putin could face the wrath of Russian mothers whose sons have been senselessly killed in Russia’s so-called “special military operation.” She wrote that the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers has unleashed its fury at the Kremlin before – during the Chechen War of the 1990s, and notably following the loss of the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk with all hands on board.

Putin had reportedly expected the war to last three days, and instead, it has gone past the 100-day mark without an end in sight. Casualties have mounted, and Russia has failed to achieve any notable objective.

Putin’s Challenge: Another General (or Two) Killed

It is increasingly difficult for Russia to conceal that it has faced setbacks in Ukraine from its people. While propaganda is still being employed, and the Kremlin paints a wildly different story from what is the reality on the ground in Ukraine, state media often can’t hide some of the most notable losses.

Just this weekend, Moscow confirmed that one of its top military leaders, Maj. Gen. Roman Kutuzov was killed leading an assault on a Ukrainian settlement in the Donbas region. The death of Kutuzov has been confirmed by the Ukrainian military, which hasn’t offered additional details.

The killing of Gen. Kutuzov comes as there are rumors circulating on social media that another senior officer, Lt. Gen. Roman Berdnikov, commander of the 29th Army, had also been killed in the fighting this past weekend. While unverified, if true that could bring the losses of general officers to a dozen to date according to Ukrainian officials – though western officials put the number at seven.

Russia’s military commanders have had to lead their forces from the front lines, and the Ukrainians have taken advantage while monitoring radio and even mobile phone communications.

“They look for high profile generals, pilots, artillery commanders,” an official in the Ukrainian government told the Wall Street Journal in March, adding that high-ranking officers are often targeted with either sniper fire or artillery.

Massive Casualties a Problem for Putin

According to reports based on Ukrainian figures, Russia had lost more than 110 men in just the past day, while a total of 31,360 soldiers have been killed since the fighting began on February 24. Those losses exceed the total casualties inflicted on the Soviet Union during its decade-long war in Afghanistan – a conflict that contributed to the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.

In addition, 1,390 tanks, 3,416 armored fighting vehicles, and 212 aircraft have been destroyed, which is the greatest loss of military hardware in a conflict since the Second World War. The Russian Navy has also lost 13 warships and boats, including the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship Moskva, which was hit by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles in April.

Putin

Russian President Putin. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The combat losses remain unconfirmed by Moscow, in part as Russia lists military deaths as “state secrets” even in peacetime. However, the Kremlin has not updated its official casualty figures since March 25. Moscow has also tried to paint its losses as heroes of the Motherland, men killed in a noble fight to denazify Ukraine – but that “truth” is doing little to comfort the actual mothers back in Russia. Putin should worry.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. speedster

    June 7, 2022 at 7:34 pm

    The Russian revolution was lit by the unpopular war with Germany in the first world war. Putin may realise that fact, because it is clear that effort has been made to recruit from anywhere but the main cities like Moscow and St.Petersburg. So if there is discontent related to relatives of troops either killed or wounded in Ukraine, then it will be low key, because the important audience who are largely unaffected are in the main cities. Having said that the western sanctions are the one thing that just may filter through to the population in the Russian cities, to bring about change in what is clearly a dictatorship with Putin as it’s head.

  2. Begemot

    June 7, 2022 at 8:56 pm

    The author is an expert on military headgear. Is he also an expert on contemporary Russian society and politics?

    I suspect the answer to the question posed by the article title is: No. The Russian people won’t be overthrowing Putin. But, then, I’m not an expert on military headgear.

  3. Bruce Wayne Cobb

    June 7, 2022 at 10:06 pm

    I will say this, Peter. Imagine 50,000 angry Russian soldiers and junior officers surrounding the Kremlin with flashing bayonets! They will storm the Kremlin just like the soldiers and sailors who stormed the Czar’s palace in 1917. They will take care of Putin, his senior officials and the Russian Duma!

  4. Him

    June 8, 2022 at 2:59 am

    I form my guess based on talking with my Russian friend who lives in Russia, in his thirties. In every respect, I think my friend is a wonderful person. He used to travel extensively to the West, and regularly read the Western Media online, so he knows what the West thinks. But he was totally in support of Putin, saying that Putin makes Russia strong again.

    I also see comments on social media from young Russians who report that there is a generation gap with their parents generation who just accept everything that the Russian Media tells with, with not even a shred of doubting that the Russian Media could be lying.

    The biggest shock to me, when I had extensive conversations with my Russian friend, was that, when I insisted that NATO and Europe would never be the first to attack Russia, I was shocked by my Russian friend’s insistence that, if there was a war, it would be Europe that would be the first to attack. This experience with my Russian friend opened my eyes to see how ordinary Russians, even those who are familiar with Western Media, are so beholden to Russian State propaganda.

    The thing is, even when Russian troops are the first to cross the border into someone else’s territory, I’ve come to realise that the Russian mind is so degraded, that Russians can interpret this as the other side starting it. Hence, the Russians think that Ukraine started it because Ukraine refused to promise not to join NATO. They call it “poking the bear”.

    Let’s talk some sense. To poke someone, you have to cross the border into their territory to poke. When a free nation is just minding its own business inside its own borders, that is not poking the bear.

    Unlike the Cuba missile crisis, Ukraine was not assembling nukes as was the threat in Cuba. So it’s a false analogy to say that Russia can attack Ukraine, similar to what the U.S. did to Cuba. There are many NATO countries who join for protection, that don’t host nuclear weapons on their soil.

    Everyone in the West knows that NATO is solely for defence. NATO is not for attack. But if you try to explain that to a Russian, their mind is so warped from 100 years of Soviet and Totalitarian mind-control, that you cannot succeed in convincing the Russian person that NATO is not going to attack them.

    Hence, 100% of Russian policy is based on the false-assumption that NATO is going to attack them. Hence, when Ukraine does not promise it won’t join NATO, the Russians see that as Ukrainian provocation. Hence, regarding Russia’s forced aggression into Ukraine, the Russians see that as them defending Russia. It is totally sick-thinking. We can all see the Russians are deluded. But the average Russian totally believes that. It is very difficult to shift the thinking that has been formed for over 100 years.

    I have seen it for myself talking face to face with my Russian friend. It shocked me to the core that Russians think that way.

    It’s like an entire nation of Russia is made up of people who outwardly act as if they are nice and normal – but their thinking is totally lunatic, thinking that everyone is going to attack them.

    The fact is, no one would be stupid to attack Russia that is armed with nuclear weapons. Russia did not need buffer states made up by enslaved border-countries. Merely having the Russian nukes were sufficient to prevent other countries attacking Russia.

    I feel sorry for the Russian lunacy, but it is nothing new. For thousands of years, this type of stupidity that we see in the Russians has been in mankind’s thinking for thousands of years.

    The only thing that can purify the heart and mind of a person is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, not fake-Christianity.

  5. Stefan Stackhouse

    June 8, 2022 at 12:56 pm

    The present Russian regime will not fall unless and until the Kremlin is surrounded by tanks. Unfortunately, there aren’t all that many Russian tanks left, and those available would probably break down on the way there.

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