A Kremlin-installed leader of occupied Kherson lashed out at Russia’s defense minister on Thursday amid a successful counteroffensive by Ukraine to retake the region that was seized in the early weeks of the war.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-appointed military-civilian regional administration, said that “incompetent military leaders” are to blame for the retreat of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops in the region.
Speaking in a video posted on his Telegram channel while giving a daily update on the situation in Kherson, Stremousov claimed many have said that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu should shoot himself amid Putin’s flagging war.
“Many people say that the Minister of Defense, who allowed this state of affairs to happen, could, as an officer, shoot himself,” Stremousov said. “But, you know, the word ‘officer’ is an incomprehensible word for many.”
Stremousov said Russia’s defense ministry consists of “ministers, mediocre and corrupt generals and marauders.”
His remarks come as Ukrainian troops press on with their counteroffensive. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a nightly video address Thursday that three more settlements had been liberated in Kherson.
In his video address, Stremousov also repeated the Russian defense ministry’s line that Russian troops are continuing to push back the Ukrainian army and that Russian forces are “regrouping” in order to save the lives of troops.
The region is “holding back” the onslaught of Ukrainian troops who are “trying to break into Kherson,” and Ukrainian advances “have been stopped,” the Kremlin-installed official wrote in a caption accompanying his video.
“We repeat once again that despite the panic that is dispersed in the media, in the Kherson region, the Ministry of Defense and the Russian Guard stand to the death. In the Kherson region, everything is at this stage without changes and panic,” he wrote.
Criticism of Russia’s military leadership has intensified in recent weeks, as Putin’s troops are being pushed out of a growing number of settlements seized during the onset of the war.
Two staunch allies of Putin, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Russian mercenary outfit the Wagner Group, have publicly ridiculed Putin’s military amid Kyiv’s successful counteroffensives in Ukraine’s south and northeast.
Kadyrov, responding to the news that Ukraine had liberated the key eastern supply hub of Lyman, suggested this week that Russia should consider using a small tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine in response.
The Chechen leader has also publicly criticized Russia’s top generals, including Russian colonel-general Oleksandr Lapin, saying that if it were up to him, he would demote Lapin, deprive him of his awards, and “send him to the frontline with a machine gun in his hands to wash away his shame with blood.”
Prigozhin praised Kadyrov for his remarks saying, “Ramzan—you rock man! All these b*****ds should be sent barefoot to the front with automatic guns.”
Newsweek reached out to Russia’s defense ministry for comment.