• Pro-Russia bloggers and even Russian veterans have become more critical of the Kremlin over Ukraine.
  • A Russian veterans group is publicly seeking a declaration of war and further troop mobilization.
  • The All-Russian Officers Assembly called Vladimir Putin's campaign in Ukraine a "failure."

The Ukrainian military's devastating defeat of a large Russian force trying to cross a river in eastern Ukraine, along with other serious Russian losses, has sparked increasing criticism among pro-Russia military bloggers and commentators, including a Russian veterans group that is now urging Russian President Vladimir Putin to declare war on Ukraine and mobilize additional forces.

The All-Russian Officers Assembly said in a letter on May 19 that Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine had failed to achieve its objectives and called on Putin to recognize that the invasion of Ukraine was no longer about "denazifying" the country but about fighting for Russia's existence and place in the world order, according to a recent analysis from the Institute for the Study of War, a research organization in Washington, DC.

The pro-Russia veterans group said that the "special military operation," as Putin calls his large-scale invasion of Ukraine, had been a "failure" and was over and that Russia must ready for a "full-blooded war."

The failed attempt by the Russian military to cross the Siversky Donets River earlier in May might be one of the deadliest events of the war, according to The New York Times, with dozens of armored vehicles lost and more than 400 Russian soldiers estimated to have been killed or wounded.

The Ukrainian defense ministry shared images showing the aftermath of the fight, with destroyed or disabled Russian tanks and other broken armored assets scattered about the battlefield.

An image released by the Ukrainian military appearing to show wrecked Russian vehicles on the riverbank. Foto: Ukrainian defense ministry

The All-Russian Officers Assembly's critical post in the wake of the battle suggests news of this disaster and other Russian failures are breaking through the Kremlin's tightly controlled information bubble. And pro-Russia milbloggers are becoming noticeably more critical of the Kremlin, ISW said.

Yuri Podolyaka, a warblogger with 2.1 million followers on Telegram, said in a video that he had been avoiding criticizing the Russian military but that after the failure of the Siversky Donets river crossing, his patience was "overwhelmed."

"I emphasize, because of the stupidity of the Russian command — at least one battalion tactical group was burned, possibly two," Podolyaka said.

"Yes, I understand that it's impossible for there to be no problems in war, but when the same problems go on for three months, and nothing seems to be changing, then I personally and in fact millions of citizens of the Russian Federation start to have questions for these leaders of the military operation."

Ukraine's military has posted photos said to show destroyed pontoon bridges and armored vehicles on the Siverskyi Donets River in eastern Ukraine. Foto: Ukrainian Ministry of Defense

Similar criticisms have been appearing more frequently, ISW explained in its report this week.

"More Russians supportive of the Kremlin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are beginning to criticize the Kremlin openly," the organization reported Monday. "The commentary by widely read milbloggers may fuel burgeoning doubts in Russia about Russia's prospects in this war and the competence of Russia's military leaders."

The Russian veterans group said the Kremlin should further mobilize all regions bordering NATO countries, extend standard military service terms from one year to two, establish wartime administrations in the separatist Donetsk and Lukansk People's Republics, and institute the death penalty for Russian deserters.

ISW said the Kremlin was most likely unwilling and unable to pursue further mobilization in the short term.

Translations were provided by Nikita Angarski.

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