In anticipation of the battle for the Donbas, a behind-the-scenes struggle in the Kremlin continues, Russian political columnist Andrey Piontkovsky wrote in an article for NV on April 17.
Almost the same thing is happening now in Putin's environment as shown in the last episodes of "Seventeen Moments of Spring," a famous 12-episode series about Soviet spy Stierlitz.
The situation is typical. This happened both in the Nazi and the Stalinist bunkers. When there's a military defeat, it always leads to an aggravation of relations between the Fuhrer and the military (General Staff). Moscow was defeated in the battle for Kyiv, and, of course, everything that is now happening in the Kremlin is looking for an answer to the question "Who is to blame?" The Fuhrer, who formulated the ridiculous adventurous tasks, or the military, who did not fulfill his brilliant plan, are to blame.
Actually, it began on March 25, when the head of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, General Sergei Rudskoy, publicly announced that "we're adjusting the war plans." And he formulated new plans, completely opposite to Putin's plans.
According to Putin, the plan was the complete occupation of Ukraine, the destruction of the Ukrainian state, and denazification. But Rudskoy said that "we didn't plan to occupy any cities, we just want to ensure the security of the Donbas, well, maybe expand the territory to the borders of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts."
These are completely different concepts of war, and Putin was forced to agree with the withdrawal of troops from Kyiv and Chernihiv. Both the generals and Putin have so far agreed that they will launch a second major battle for the Donbas, trying to expand the entire territory, but they'll see how it goes.
However, Putin hasn't publicly abandoned the original goals of the war. And, of course, he will never forgive the generals for this attempt to change the goals of the war. He appointed another commander over them – General Alexander Dvornikov – who has a reputation as "the butcher of Aleppo" and "the executioner of Syria." He could only fight by shooting defenseless cities from the air, cities that had neither aviation nor air defense. That's the extent of his "exploits," which he, apparently, is to repeat in Ukraine.
But in anticipation of the battle for the Donbas, the struggle in the Kremlin continues. We hear about the arrests of 20 generals, about the arrest of Colonel General Sergei Beseda, and the arrest of the ideologist of the Russian war, Vladislav Surkov. Putin is desperately looking for people he can blame for the failure.
Either Putin will arrest or shoot all the generals, accusing them of betrayal, or they will give him a preemptive strike. We'll be watching this process with pleasure.
So far everyone is waiting for the result of this second battle for the Donbas. If it ends from Moscow's point of view as unsuccessfully as the battle for Kyiv (and most military experts think this will be the case, as Putin has failed to mobilize any new reserves) then the struggle in the Kremlin will enter a decisive stage.
By the way, I will briefly dwell on the role of Surkov. I believe that he deliberately acted as such an instigator of war, knowing Putin's weaknesses, and foreseeing that this would eventually end for him and for the empire. After all, Surkov, like all Chechens, like (Chechen leader) Ramzan Kadyrov, of course, hate Russia and the Russians for everything they have done in the North Caucasus and in Chechnya, in particular, over the past 200 years. So perhaps he saw his mission, as a Chechen patriot, in spoiling Russia as much as possible, promoting this crazy concept of the "Russian world," mocking his Russian masters. Apparently, he will have to answer for this now. He was arrested, he's under house arrest now, but he is waiting to be sent to Lefortovo (detention center), to the torture chambers, where Beseda is already being interrogated.
The Kremlin has recently said that it could "hit the decision-making centers in Kyiv." And analysts began to wonder how far Putin is willing to go to avenge, e.g. the Moskva cruiser. But, look – how much more revenge he can take?! He commits heinous crimes in Ukraine every day. This whole picture (of the atrocities) appears in all the cities from which the invaders have left.
Well, he will continue. Moreover, the appointment of this executioner from Syria Dvornikov as commander of Russian forces in Ukraine is very significant. And there are daily calls on Russian television, saying that we are too soft, we need to destroy the decision-making centers, the leadership of Ukraine, etc. Well, you Ukrainians are fighting a terrible enemy, a fascist state ready to commit any crime.
But the positive news of the last week is that the West has decided to help Ukraine more significantly by supplying heavy offensive weapons. It has dawned on the minds of the West that Putin will not stop and will go further in case of a victory in Ukraine. So it is better to stop him now, when 40 million people are now fighting on a vast territory for themselves and for the West. The most motivated army in the world will have the most modern weapons in two weeks. Unfortunately, the West is always late in its support. If these weapons had been provided before, the so-called battle for the Donbas would have ended with the liberation of the entire Donbas and Crimea.
I believe that the most likely outcome of this battle is that they will stop at some new line. Relatively speaking, the Russians will seize Avdiyivka, and the Ukrainians will take Horlivka. Nothing will change from this. But time is playing into the hands of Ukraine. It gets more and more effective weapons. Strategically, Putin has lost the war, which will lead to a counter conflict in the bunker –just like the last episodes of the famous series about Stierlitz.