Putin’s Two Biggest War Hawks Are Turning on Him

Kremlin via Reuters
Kremlin via Reuters

The cracks in Vladimir Putin’s war machine appear to be growing as two of his biggest allies in the senseless slaughter of Ukrainians blast the country’s “weak” military.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov went public with his complaints late Monday on Telegram, where he said he was “very unhappy” with the current state of the war.

“Earlier we used to say that we were conducting a special military operation on the territory of Ukraine, but the war is already happening on our territory,” he said in a 13-minute audio recording, apparently referring to shelling in Russia’s Belgorod region that local authorities blamed on Ukraine over the weekend.

“We have already declared martial law in the territories bordering Ukraine but they [Ukrainians] are not shy, they shoot… We, in response, are answering weakly,” he said, calling for the Russian military to “wipe out cities” any time a shell flies toward Russian territory.

He said Russian leadership shouldn’t worry about angering the West, since “all that could have happened already has happened” and “it won’t get any worse.”

“Europe has no power. What will they do, send their LGBT people?”

His criticism marks a complete 180 from just two weeks ago, when after weeks of urging more brutal attacks, he said he was “100% satisfied” with Russian airstrikes that killed at least 19 Ukrainian civilians.

In the wake of his latest comments, pro-Kremlin bloggers cheered on his directness and praised him for ditching Moscow’s preferred “special military operation” euphemism in favor of calling the war a war, with one popular channel gushing that “only Kadyrov is saying what all patriots of Russia want to hear right now.”

(Under new Russian laws, calling the war a “war” is punishable by prison time—Moscow municipal deputy Alexei Gorinov got seven years in July for doing just that.)

Kadyrov’s outspoken calls for Moscow to go scorched earth on Ukraine have mirrored those made by Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin throughout the war. Prigozhin, the businessman spearheading a twisted recruitment campaign among prison inmates for the Wagner Group, has begun publicly positioning himself as the one man who can “win this damn war” for the Russian president using unorthodox methods and thousands of freed convicts.

‘Putin’s Chef’ Is Personally Touring Russian Prisons for Wagner Recruits to Fight in Ukraine, Reports Say

In a brazen move that would appear to show Putin’s own sinking stature among the Russian elite, Prigozhin is said to have taken his complaints about the war directly to the Russian leader.

Two unnamed U.S. officials cited by The Washington Post on Tuesday said Prigozhin personally confronted Putin over perceived war failings, blasting top military brass for recent setbacks.

“Prigozhin’s decision to confront Putin is only the latest sign of his dissatisfaction,” a source was quoted telling the Post.

Putin is also said to be feeling the heat of public outrage over his recent “partial mobilization,” a desperate move that was meant to bolster Moscow’s fledgling troops on the battlefield but instead sparked a wave of protests and criticism from even those who’d previously supported the war.

The Russian leader has actively been floating the idea of halting the mobilization until New Year’s, according to Yellow Folder, a Telegram channel ostensibly run by former members of Russia’s Federal Protective Services who still have sources inside the government.

“Putin is now discussing how to arrange a ‘break’ in mobilization in order to calm the people and ease tensions in society,” the channel reported Tuesday.

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