Putin's mouthpiece loses it on live TV

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Russia has denied that it is planning to retreat from the Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine – one of the four regions annexed by Russia earlier this year – amid reports Moscow’s military could be about to surrender more territory. While the Kremlin says it will keep its troops near the region’s crucial nuclear power plant, Russia denied it would retreat from the Kherson region earlier this month before doing so just days later.

In fact, in recent months, Russian forces have surrendered a large amount of territory as Ukraine’s counteroffensive progresses. Experts are suggesting that Vladimir Putin’s grip on power could be slipping as the military setbacks continue.

Lawrence Freedman, a British academic, historian and author who specialises in foreign policy, recently gave a damning verdict of how Putin has mismanaged the conflict.

Writing for the New Statesman, he said Putin has been “exposed as a failed war leader”. He said that the Russian President is now only escalating the conflict to satisfy the ultra-nationalist elements in the country’s media and political landscape.

Condemning Russia’s missile strikes on Ukrainian cities, he wrote: “Everything that now happens in this war, including the murderous missile attacks on Ukrainian cities on October 10, has to be understood in terms of the logic of Vladimir Putin’s exposed position as a failed war leader.

“The Russian president is desperately trying to demonstrate to his hardline critics that he is up to the task. The opening salvos of this week, ending yet more innocent lives for no discernible military gain, will not make Ukraine less determined or able to win this war. They will have the opposite effect.”

Mr Freedman also pointed to the explosion on the Kerch Bridge as a major embarrassment for Putin and a blow to Russia’s military. The bridge, built after the annexation of Crimea, connects Russia to the peninsula. When Putin opened the bridge in 2018, he branded it a “miracle”.

During the war, the Kerch bridge has been a key supply route for the Russian military. It also holds symbolic value for Putin’s regime.

While the explosion only partially damaged the bridge, it still impacted the Russian military’s already poor logistics. Russia accused Ukraine of attacking the bridge, but Kyiv denied the allegations.

Mr Freedman points to examples of Russian state media becoming increasingly frustrated with their military’s struggles. One host, Vladimir Solovyov, recently questioned when Russian troops will “start fighting”, adding that “it’s better to be feared than laughed at”.

He was not the only despondent figure, however. Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the state-controlled Russia Today, said the Kerch Bridge incident was a “red line” and expressed anger at the lack of response from Russia.

Mr Freedman fears that Putin could be replaced by an ultra-nationalist figure who will only escalate the conflict with Ukraine even further. One man who he names as a potential Putin replacement is Yevgeny Prigozhin.

He said: “There will be ultra-nationalists in this mix and some, including Prigozhin, with their private armies, but not many moderates. Even if a new leader was ready to do a deal they would be constrained by Putin’s legacy, not least his illegal annexation of Ukrainian provinces.”

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Prigozhin founded the Wagner Group. The mercenary group is a private military company that has aided the Russian forces in Ukraine. Prigozhin has also enjoyed a close relationship with Putin.

Prigozhin founded the Wagner Group, the private mercenary group that has aided the Russian forces in Ukraine, and enjoys a close relationship with Putin.

Putin has attempted to address the frustration at home this week, meeting with mothers of servicemen for tea. He told the women that he understood the pain they had endured having lost their sons.

However, Olga Tsukanova, an activist mother from Russia, has criticised the Russian president’s choreographed meeting this week. As quoted by France 24, she said this week: “The president will meet with some mothers pulled out of his pocket, who will ask the right questions and thank him. As usual. “I’m not alone. Invite us, Vladimir Vladimirovich, answer our questions!”

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