Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said he wanted to congratulate his commanders for counterattacking rather than retreating in the southern sector of the Ukrainian front, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said .
The think tank’s daily assessment noted Tuesday that, in a conference call with Russian military leaders that day, Shoigu hailed a “strange group” of armed formations of Moscow’s forces in the western oblast of Zaporozhye.
This sector is part of the counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces which began around June 4 and which aims to reconquer the territory occupied by Russia.
Shoigu said Russian troops successfully defended around Robotyne and Verbove, settlements south of the town of Orikhiv. In doing so, he saluted the 70th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment, the 56th Air Assault Regiment (VDV), the 810th Naval Infantry Brigade and the 291st Guards Artillery Brigade.
While it is possible that Shoigu simply wanted to celebrate only a few formations, “he may have emphasized some of these formations for political reasons,” the think tank said.
Indeed, Russian military bloggers have described how commanders face “a choice between ‘wasting’ their troops on counterattacks to hold tactical positions, or standing up to Russian military command by retreating to previously prepared positions , thus risking their careers.
“Shoigu may snub formations that advocate tactical retreats to prepared defensive positions,” the ISW assessment said.
He points out that the Russian Defense Ministry “deliberately snubbed or amplified the achievements of certain commanders in order to achieve the political goals of Shoigu or the Russian military command.”
News week emailed the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.
Ukraine’s General Staff said on Tuesday that its forces carried out offensive operations in the direction of Melitopol in western Zaporizhzhia oblast and in the direction of Bakhmut in Donetsk oblast.
Russian sources said Kiev forces were continuing their ground attacks near Klishchiivka and Andriivka, south of the city, which have been the subject of heavy fighting.
This comes as Ukraine continues to step up drone strikes on targets in Russia. Ukrainian media reported that a Russian S-400 Triumph air defense system was struck near the city of Belgorod in the early hours of Wednesday, citing sources from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).
Videos broadcast on Russian Telegram channels reportedly heard sounds of explosions above the city, although SBU sources did not specify the extent of the damage caused. Meanwhile, Russia said its forces shot down 31 Ukrainian drones overnight over Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk oblasts.