Hardcore Russian nationalists, who supported the invasion of Ukraine, surprisingly came out in support of the decision to withdraw Russian troops from the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, at least initially.
Although the withdrawal was considered a humiliation for the Russians, these supporters backed General Sergey Surovikin, who is in command of the Ukrainian theater, when he ordered the withdrawal. Now, "General Armageddon" - as he is known - is under tremendous pressure to prove that the withdrawal was worth it.
"We are waiting for your brilliant results and praying for you, I pray for you every day," Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the state television channel RT said on social media in a recorded segment. Simonyan is a vocal supporter of the invasion of Ukraine.
Referring to Russian nationalists who run military blogs, and are not happy with the withdrawal, she called on Sorovikin to ignore the "nonsense" of the critics.
One such critic, who opposed the withdrawal despite holding views in favor of Russia's invasion, is Vladlen Tatarsky, who has more than half a million followers on Telegram and Vkontakte.
Tatarsky was furious when he saw Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit Kherson after the Russian withdrawal, wondering why Moscow didn't just kill him.
"What are we shedding our blood for? Why can Zelensky quietly come to Kherson? Symbolically it would have been great if a Gran (a type of unmanned aerial vehicle used by Russia) had landed on his stupid head — but it didn't happen. Why? Either we commit to fighting an all-out war, or nothing will work out," the military blogger said in a video.
"What are we shedding our blood for? Why can Zelensky quietly come to Kherson? Symbolically it would have been great if a Gran (a type of unmanned aerial vehicle used by Russia) had landed on his stupid head - but it didn't happen. Why? Either we commit to fighting an all-out war, or nothing will work out."Vladlen Tatarsky
Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, whose daughter Darya was killed in a car explosion outside Moscow in August in what Russia claims was an assassination orchestrated by Ukraine, has also begun applying pressure on Surovikin, saying Kherson was "the last piece of Ukrainian territory that Russia could afford to give up."
“The limit has been reached,” Dugin told the Russian nationalist online news outlet Tsargrad.
Surovikin has also been pressured to step up Moscow’s airstrikes aimed at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, a tactic the Kremlin has suggested is designed to weaken Ukraine, hopefully convincing them to come to the negotiating table.
Vladimir Solovyov, one of Russia’s most prominent ultra-nationalist TV hosts, said last week: “I appeal to the Hero of Russia Army General Surovikin: Comrade Army General, I am asking you to complete the complete destruction of the energy infrastructure of the Nazi Ukrainian junta.”
"Captain Solovyev" asks Surovikin to destroy Ukrainian energy infrastructure completely.When will brave captain start defending Russia from NATO/Nazis/devils/whatever the narrative is that week on the battlefield? pic.twitter.com/PkW6z7Fk30— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) November 17, 2022
Ukraine, on the other hand, has vowed to continue retaking territory, with Russian officials warning they suspect a third front in the west will be opened, using redeployed forces from Kherson.
Other prominent TV commentators have begun to question the handling of the war publicly.
Dmitry Abzalov, for example, complained of what he called an "information vacuum," saying he’d like to know "for a change, just once” what the Kremlin's actual goals were in the Ukraine war.
Maxim Yusin, another "TV commentator" complained while on air about what he said were "lies being peddled by some politicians on state TV," boasting that Russia's military was so strong they would be able to reach “Poland's borders, Berlin, the English Channel and even Lisbon.”
“It’s a clown show,” said Yusin.
The loss of Kherson has unleashed levels of discontent on state TV that I'm yet to see in the warMaxim Yusin says Ukraine is laughing at his country, and that Russia only has itself to blameHe derides the TV pundits who claim Russia will reach the Polish border as "clowns" pic.twitter.com/cjrvUrR8SJ— Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) November 15, 2022
Russian forces retreat from Kherson
The retreat of Russian forces from the west bank of the Dnipro River was ordered by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on November 9 in the face of Ukrainian attacks near the southern city of Kherson, according to Russian state media.
"The decision on the defense on the eastern bank of the Dnieper is not easy," Shoigu said, "at the same time we will preserve the lives of our soldiers and the combat capability of military formations."
The commander of the Joint Group of Russian Forces in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, in a report to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, requested that Russian forces fall back across the Dnipro River in order to establish proper defensive lines.
"It is advisable to organize defense along the barrier line of the Dnieper River, along its left bank," Surovkivin said.
"I agree with your conclusions and proposals," Shoigu told Surovikin. "Start with the withdrawal of troops and take all measures to ensure the safe transfer of personnel, weapons and equipment across the Dnieper River."
Surovikin also added that, despite an urgent call to retreat forces in Kherson, Russian troops have successfully resisted enemy offensive attempts along the entire line of contact.