Putin In Denial As Ukraine Captures Hundreds Of Soldiers – As Russian troops leave Kharkiv and regroup in Donetsk, and despite the crippling losses suffered by Russia at the hands of Ukraine’s U.S.-supplied HIMARS missile systems, Russian President Vladimir Putin is doubling down on his war in Ukraine.
During a summit in Uzbekistan, where Putin was forced to acknowledge the reservations of the leaders of China and India about his war in Ukraine, the Russian president recommitted to doing all he can to end the war – but not by withdrawing his troops. Putin instead vowed to continue his “special military operation.”
And he may simply have no choice. Whether Putin ends the war now or recommits what’s left of his military to taking full control of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, his political future is in jeopardy. Putin is facing tough questions from members of the Russian media, from the public, and even from elected politicians who are risking prison to call for his resignation.
Backed Into A Corner
If Putin ends the war now, he crippled the Russian economy for nothing. He also risks the many alleged war crimes committed by his own soldiers being exposed to the world. In Izyum, after Russian soldiers fled the city, Ukrainian authorities reportedly discovered one of the largest mass grave sites seen during the Ukraine war so far. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that more than 440 graves were found at the site, but that it was not known how many civilians were among the dead.
A top Ukrainian official also told Fox News Digital on Sunday that after exhuming 450 bodies from the mass grave site, workers found some people buried with their hands behind their backs.
Yurly Sak, an advisor to the Ukrainian Defense Minister, claimed that “new sites of atrocities” were being discovered, as well as “evidence of war crimes.”
“Men, women, children. Some of the bodies were dug out with their hands tied behind their backs,” Sak said.
“We are seeing what we have warned about before, that everywhere the Russian occupiers set their foot they leave disaster, they leave atrocities, they commit war crimes, they terrify and terrorize peaceful populations.”
On the other hand, if Putin continues his war, the West’s sanctions are unlikely to end anytime soon, and no matter how hard he tries, his military won’t be capable of pushing back advanced weapons supplied by the West unless he receives more advanced weapons from his allies. Given how his Uzbekistan meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi went, we can rule out at least two significant allies who may be willing to help.
Backed into a corner, Putin is now relying on faulty drones from Iran and promises of the deployment of North Korean troops in Ukraine – an offer the Russian president has yet to actually take dictator Kim Jong Un up on.
Incredibly, the Russian president claimed this week that there is “no hurry” in Ukraine, insisting that his government has no plans to adjust military operations in Ukraine even in the face of a hugely successful counter-offensive.
Hundred Of Russian Soldiers Captured
As if thousands of lost tanks, an inability to manufacture new advanced weapons, and a national economy struggling to cope with the West’s sanctions weren’t enough of a problem, Putin also faces a severe shortage of troops. That shortage was already being felt before the counteroffensive in Kharkiv but must surely be felt even worse now.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with Rutgers this week that his forces had captured hundreds of Russian soldiers during the counteroffensive – a loss for Russia and also a significant boost to Ukraine’s Prisoner of War exchange fund.
“In any case, I can tell you honestly that Russia holds more of our soldiers prisoners than we hold Russian soldiers or mercenaries who work for the Russian Federation, the terrorists,” Zelenskyy said, recognizing the significance of boosting the number of Russian POWs held by Ukrainian forces.
Zelenskyy said that hundreds more Russian soldiers had been captured, but stressed that all those soldiers would be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
The situation is so dire for the Russians that even a Russian-installed official in Kharkiv said on Monday that there were roughly eight times more Ukrainian forces in the region over the weekend than Russian soldiers, which ultimately led to the Russian retreat.
During an interview on Rossiya-24, Vitaly Ganchev said that the situation in Ukraine is becoming “more difficult by the hour.”
Perhaps driven by desperation, and some hope that a surprise Russian victory in Ukraine could bury investigations into Russian war crimes, the Russian president, plows ahead with his war in Ukraine.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.