Written by Jay Faulconbridge
LONDON (Reuters) – A military analyst has sent a blunt message to viewers of Russian state television that the war in Ukraine will only get worse for Russia, which faces a U.S.-backed crowd while Russia is almost completely isolated.
Since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russian state media – especially state television – have supported the Kremlin’s position. Few of the dissenting voices were given air time.
That appeared to change on Monday night when a famous military analyst gave Russia’s main state television channel a candid assessment of what Putin called a “special military operation.”
“Informational tranquilizers should not be swallowed up,” said Mikhail Khodarionok, a retired colonel, on the “60 Minutes” talk show on Rossiya-1 hosted by Olga Scapieva, one of the most pro-Kremlin journalists on television.
“The situation, frankly, is going to get worse for us,” said Khudarionok, a frequent guest on state television who often gives candid assessments of the situation.
He said Ukraine could mobilize a million militants.
Khudaryonok, a military columnist for gazeta.ru and a graduate of one of Russia’s elite military academies, warned before the invasion that such a move would not be in Russia’s national interest.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands of people, displaced millions more and raised fears of the most serious confrontation between Russia and the United States since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Khudarionok and Scapieva could not be reached for comment.
sense of realism
The war also demonstrated the post-Soviet limits of Russia’s military, intelligence, and economic power: despite Putin’s attempts to bolster his armed forces, the Russian military performed poorly in many battles in Ukraine.
The encirclement of Kyiv was abandoned and Russia shifted its focus instead towards trying to gain control of the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine. The West has supplied Ukrainian forces with billions of dollars in weapons.
Casualties have not been publicly reported but Ukraine says Russian losses are worse than the 15,000 Soviets killed in the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan War.
“The desire to defend the motherland means that it is in Ukraine – it is already there and they intend to fight to the end,” Khudaryonok said before Skabieva interrupted him.
The greatest strategic consequence of the Russian invasion to date has been the extraordinary unity of the United States’ European allies and attempts by Sweden and Finland to join the US-led military alliance.
Khudaryonok said Russia needs to see reality.
“The main thing in our work is to have a sense of military and political realism: if you go beyond that, the truth of history will hit you so hard that you won’t know what hit you,” he said.
“Don’t wave the rockets at Finland for good – it looks kind of funny,” he said.
He said Russia was isolated.
“The main shortcoming of our military-political position is that we are in complete geopolitical isolation – and yet we do not want to admit that – practically the whole world is against us – and we need to get out of this situation.”
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Alison Williams)