Russia has removed top commanders from its ranks over poor performances during its war in Ukraine, intelligence officials from the United Kingdom said Thursday.
The war in Ukraine has persisted for three months and western defense officials have repeatedly said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in the former Soviet nation are flagging.
Moscow’s inability to make significant advances, capture Kharkiv and the sinking of the Russian warship the Moskva in the Black Sea – which was reported to be the notorious vessel involved in the Snake Island exchange during the early days of the war – has resulted in suspensions among leaders in Russia’s military.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense claimed “a culture of cover-ups and scapegoating” has plagued Russia’s military and security sectors.
“Many officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine will likely be increasingly distracted by efforts to avoid personal culpability for Russia’s operational setbacks,” the ministry said.
Officials believe these organizational issues will put additional strain on Russia’s “centralized model of command and control” and will prompt military officials to defer decisions to those higher in the ranks.
“It will be difficult for Russia to regain initiative under these conditions,” the ministry concluded.
Reports have increasingly surfaced that Moscow is laying the blame for its failures in Ukraine on its top officials, including army general Valery Gerasimov, who serves as the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.
The U.K. assessed Thursday that he has “likely” held onto his position despite claims from Ukrainian defense officials last week that the top commander had been booted from his post.
But U.K. officials noted it remains “unclear” if he has maintained Putin’s confidence.
British defense secretary Ben Wallace claimed earlier this month that Russia’s military leaders are “terrified they are about to be purged and pushed out”.
“There is a point of tension in the system,” he said. “As much as they respect the former KGB man [Putin] for being a strong leader, the Russian general staff are going to be made scapegoats for his mess.”
Cohesion issues are trickling down to every level in Russia’s military as the war persists and death tolls continue to rise.
The exact number of Russian casualties remains unclear, but Ukraine’s defenses have claimed that over 28,000 Russian troops have been killed in the fighting since February.