- Pro-Russian milbloggers and even Russian veterans have become more critical of the Kremlin following several major losses in Ukraine.
- A Russian veterans group is publicly calling for the Kremlin to declare war on Ukraine and to further mobilize the armed forces.
- The All-Russian Officers Assembly called Russian President Vladimir Putin's "special military operation" in Ukraine a "failure."
The Ukrainian military's devastating defeat of a large Russian force as it tried to cross a river in eastern Ukraine, along with other serious Russian losses, has sparked increasing criticism among pro-Russian bloggers, including a Russian veterans group that is now calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to declare war on Ukraine and mobilize additional forces.
The All-Russian Officers Assembly said in an online post on May 19 that Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine has failed to achieve its goals and called on Putin to recognize that the invasion of Ukraine is no longer about "denazifying" the region but about Russia's existence and position in the world order, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research organization.
The pro-Russian group said that the "special military operation," as Putin called his large-scale invasion of Ukraine, has been a "failure" and is 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 this month 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 numerous destroyed or disabled Russian tanks and other broken armored assets scattered about the battlefield.
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-Russian military bloggers are becoming noticeably more critical of the Kremlin, ISW said.
Yuri Podolyaka, a war blogger with 2.1 million followers on Telegram, said in a video that he had been avoiding criticizing the Russian military, but after the failure of the Siverski 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."
Similar criticisms have been appearing more frequently, ISW explained in a report earlier this week.
"More Russians supportive of the Kremlin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are beginning to criticize the Kremlin openly," the organization reported on 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, including Ukraine, 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 is likely unwilling and unable to pursue further mobilization in the short term, noting manpower limitations in particular.