Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has signaled that he wants to praise his commanders who counterattack rather than retreat in the southern sector of the front in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.
The think tank’s daily assessment on Tuesday noted how during a conference call with Russia’s military leadership that day, Shoigu had celebrated an “odd group” of Moscow forces’ armed formations in the western Zaporizhzhia oblast.
The sector is part of where Ukraine’s forces are fighting in their counteroffensive that started around June 4 and which aims to recapture Russian-occupied territory.
Shoigu said Russian troops had successfully defended around Robotyne and Verbove, settlements south of the city of Orikhiv. In doing so, he praised his forces’ 70th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment, the 56th Air Assault (VDV) Regiment, 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 highlighted some of these formations for political reasons,” the think tank said.
This is because Russian milbloggers have described how commanders face “a choice between either ‘wasting’ their troops in counterattacks to hold tactical positions, or standing up to the Russian military command by retreating to previously prepared positions, thereby risking their careers.”
“Shoigu could be snubbing formations who are advocating for tactical retreats to prepared defensive positions,” the ISW assessment said.
It noted how the Russian Defense Ministry “has routinely deliberately snubbed or amplified the achievements of certain commanders in order to achieve Shoigu or the Russian military command’s political objectives.”
Newsweek has emailed the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.
The Ukrainian General Staff said on Tuesday its forces had conducted offensive operations in the Melitopol direction in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and towards Bakhmut in the Donetsk oblast.
Russian sources said Kyiv’s forces continued ground attacks near Klishchiivka and Andriivka south of the city which has been fiercely fought over.
It comes as Ukraine has continued to step up drone strikes on targets within Russia. Ukrainian media reported that a Russian S-400 Triumph air defense system had been struck near the city of Belgorod in the early hours of Wednesday, citing Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) sources.
Videos on Russian Telegram channels purportedly have the sounds of explosions over the city although SBU sources did not specify how much damage had been done. Meanwhile, Russia said that its forces shot down 31 Ukrainian drones overnight over Belgorod, Bryansk, and Kursk oblasts.