Morale among Russian troops fighting in Ukraine continues to suffer amid growing dissatisfaction across all ranks, the head of the British armed forces said, although that discontent is still far from turning into a substantial revolt.
“We are, unsurprisingly, seeing disquiet at all levels within Russia’s armed forces,” said Admiral Tony Radakin, chief of the defence staff, the UK’s most senior military officer. “You’ve seen it at the most junior level . . . We are also seeing the pressure that exists with their tactical and operational commanders . . . and then you get up to their most senior commanders who are clearly under pressure too.”
Reports of a brigade commander being run over by his own troops, widespread videos posted on social media of grumbling Russian soldiers, and the firing of 12 national guardsmen who refused to fight in Ukraine have fed speculation that parts of the Russian army may be close to mutiny.
But Radakin cautioned that “mutiny” was a strong word — “the naval officer in me twitches when I hear the word” — and added that “we are going to have to wait and see” whether the widely reported discontent inside the Russian army “evolves into something more impactful”.
Even so, Radakin’s remarks — made at a seminar about the future of the British army — add to an overall picture of the growing pressures facing Russia’s armed forces, both within its ranks and between senior commanders and President Vladimir Putin.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday said Putin appeared to be “self-isolating”, adding there was “some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers”.
But Biden cautioned that reports of reprisals against those senior Russian officials had not been independently corroborated, adding: “I don’t want to put too much stock in this at this time.”