Although Russia first received the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region with silence and yesterday maintained its commitment to "meet the objectives" of its intervention in Ukraine, some voices recognized that Kyiv's advance has been overwhelming, in a numerical superiority of troops from 8 to 1. And the most radical have shown their discontent, such as the Chechen leader, Ramzán Kadírov, who has criticized the strategy of the Russian army. Yesterday he announced that elite units of the Chechen Republic have returned to combat zones in Ukraine.
Kadirov posted a video on his Telegram account in which Chechen deputy Adam Delimjanov, who heads the elite corps, is seen surrounded by several fighters. The battalion took a break after the "liberation" of several cities and is now back in the Kherson, Zaporizhia and Donetsk regions, Kadyrov said.
Towards this last region, one of the two in Donbass, the Ukrainian troops seem to be heading from Kharkiv. On Sunday, its commander-in-chief, Valeri Zaluzhni, assured that they had recovered 3,000 square kilometers from Russian hands in a week, their biggest advance in six months of conflict. That includes the cities of Kupiansk and Izium, important logistics hubs for the Russians and from where Moscow "regrouped" its troops over the weekend to reinforce positions in Donetsk.
The Kyiv army claimed yesterday to have recovered 20 towns in the last 24 hours alone. According to his version, the Ukrainian army is also advancing in the south, where they have recovered 500 square kilometers in Kherson.
The Kremlin spokesman, Dimitri Peskov, did not seem impressed yesterday by what happened and assured that the operations in Ukraine "continue and will continue until the objectives that were initially set are achieved." It is the first statement of the Russian presidency on the Ukrainian advance of the last week. When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what he called a “special military operation” on February 24, he declared that the goal was to protect Donbass, “denazify” and “demilitarize” Ukraine.
The undeterred position of the Kremlin contrasted with that of other political figures.
The pro-Russian chief in the Kharkiv region, Vitali Ganchev, explained on the Russian state channel Rossiya24 that Kyiv troops outnumber Russian troops 8 to 1. He added that Ukrainian forces seized previously Russian-controlled towns in the north of that region, approaching the border between the two countries, and that "some 5,000" civilians had been evacuated to Russia. "The situation is getting more difficult by the hour," he said.
Denís Pushilin, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), also expressed himself along these lines. "The situation is complicated," as "the adversary is trying to damage critical and civilian infrastructure," he said. Pushilin spoke of "massive bombing", but assured that the Russian and pro-Russian forces "hold their position" and have the situation "under control".
The pro-Russian leader added that the Ukrainians had attacked the city of Liman, in Russian hands since May. Liman is only 65 kilometers from Donetsk.
This acknowledgment of the situation comes after more radical voices criticized the command of the Russian army for the Ukrainian advance. Among them, the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadirov. “I am not a strategist like those in the Ministry of Defense. But it is clear that mistakes have been made. I think they will draw a few conclusions,” he said in an audio message posted on Telegram on Sunday. “If no changes in strategy have been made today or tomorrow, I will be forced to talk to the leaders of the Ministry of Defense and the leadership of the country to explain to them the real situation on the ground,” he added.
Kadyrov suggested that Putin might not be aware of the real state of affairs. Something that was denied yesterday by his spokesman, Dimitri Peskov, who assured that they did inform Putin about the "regrouping" of Russian troops. “The president is in permanent communication, 24 hours a day, both with the defense minister and with all the military leaders,” he assured.