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Pro-Kremlin commander calls Russian military leader ‘negligent’ for failed war

A former commander of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine has accused Russia’s defense minister of “criminal negligence” in the country’s failed war campaign.

Igor Girkin, who previously served as defense minister for Russia-backed separatist forces in Ukraine’s Donbass region, made the comments on his Telegram channel on Friday.

“I directly charge Sergei Shoigu, at a minimum, with criminal negligence,” Girkin said, according to Reuters. “I have no reason to accuse him of treason, but I would suspect him.”

His comment is one of the strongest public attacks on Russia’s military leadership from a pro-Kremlin figure to date. Girkin has long been critical of Russia’s invasion and even advocated for a more brutal affront as Russia continues to face heavy casualties and fierce resistance from Ukrainian fighters. He had previously been charged with murder by Dutch prosecutors for his alleged role in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, according to Reuters.

Igor Girkin, who was previously the top military commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, has accused Russia’s defense minister of “criminal negligence”. Above, Girkin gives a press conference on July 28, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine.
Bulent KILIC / AFP/Getty Images

Nevertheless, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made no public indication that he is unhappy with Shoigu. Earlier this week, the defense minister played a leading role in commemorating the 77th anniversary of Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

While the war in Ukraine has had a catastrophic effect, Russia has so far failed to make any significant military gains across the country. The nation failed to capture the Ukrainian capital of kyiv in the first phase of the war and has since refocused its efforts on the eastern region of Donbass. This week, Ukraine said it had pinned down Russian forces near the eastern city of Kharkiv and was now preparing a counteroffensive that could determine the pace of the next phase of the war.

However, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov still warned that the war had entered a “new and long phase” with “extremely difficult weeks” ahead.

The invasion also devastated much of Ukraine’s territories and population. Homes, schools and hospitals have often been attacked by Russian bombardment, and Moscow has been accused of committing war crimes by massacring innocent civilians.

A United Nations spokesman said on Tuesday nearly 7,000 Ukrainian citizens have so far been killed in the war, although officials believe the true death toll is much higher. Graphic images have emerged showing mass graves and the remains of hundreds of dead civilians, while Russian troops have also been accused of killing children, raping and torturing women.

Russia has also suffered significant deaths. Ukraine said its fighters had killed at least 12 of the country’s top generals and more than 20,000 troops were believed to have been killed.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said earlier this week that the country would seize all Russian assets and put them into a fund to help rebuild what was lost or damaged during the invasion.

“We will withdraw everything Russia has in Ukraine and use those resources to strengthen the army, support the people and rebuild our country,” he said on Tuesday. “The president and the government have repeatedly said that Russia must pay for what it destroyed in Ukraine.

Newsweek contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.


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