Putin Fires His Top General After Comments About The War

The Russian commander in charge of the forces fighting in southern Ukraine was relieved of his duties last week by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu after he spoke out about the problems his troops are facing, the Associated Press reported.

Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov, who commanded the 58th army in the Zaporizhzhia region in southeastern Ukraine, told his troops last Wednesday in an audio statement that he had been dismissed after a meeting with military leaders.

Popov described his dismissal as “treacherous” and accused Russian military leaders of “cowardly beheading the army at this most difficult moment.”

In the audio, released by former 58th army commander retired Gen. Andrei Gurulev, Popov said Russian military leadership was angry over his comments about the shortage of radar to track enemy artillery, which has resulted in massive casualties.

He claimed that he was viewed as a “threat” and said the defense minister signed the order to get rid of him just one day after the order was issued by military leaders.

Popov, 48, was known to encourage his troops to come to him directly if they had any problems, an approach that is in stark contrast with the Russian military’s usual style of command.

Pro-Russian military bloggers say Popov is widely known for avoiding unnecessary losses on the battlefield, unlike other Russian commanders who eagerly sacrifice soldiers to achieve success.

The military bloggers fear that dismissing Popov will erode morale at a time when Ukraine is launching relentless attacks against Russian forces in occupied areas.

Blogger Vladislav Shurygin described Popov’s dismissal as a “terrible blow to the entire army.” Roman Saponkov, another blogger, called it a “monstrous terror attack” against troop morale.

But Popov’s criticism of the military leadership appears to be shared by some in Moscow.

Andrei Turchak, the first deputy speaker of the State Doma’s upper house backed Maj. Gen. Popov, saying that Russia “can be proud of such commanders.”