Vladimir Putin has launched a clear out of Russia’s top military command structure according to Professor Michael Clarke, a leading defence and security analyst from Sky News.
Professor Clarke joined Sky News on Friday to discuss the Kremlin’s decision to remove Major General Ivan Popov.
Popov, served as the commander of the 58th army in the Zaporizhzhia region, a significant area which sits at the centre of heavy fighting amid Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive efforts.
The senior commander was relieved of his duties following his vocal complaints about the difficulties faced by his soldiers on the frontline.
Popov even went so far as to directly accuse Moscow of betraying his men.
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Professor Clarke told Sky News: “[Popov’s]been trying to run combined arms battles in his sector, and they’ve been doing quite well.
“But it was the sheer frustration and his troops are not being rotated and they weren’t getting a chance to get out to the battle for long periods.
“He calls all of his troops, Gladiators, and his own callsign is Spartacus. So that tells you quite a lot about him.
“But he’s very popular, and they’ve removed him because of his criticisms, criticisms have now leaked out but he’s not the only one being removed.”
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Popov, aged 48, has had an impressive career trajectory, starting as a platoon commander and eventually leading a significant military force.
He adopted a relaxed approach, encouraging his soldiers to approach him directly with any issues.
This informal style of command sharply contrasted with the typically rigid and formal military leadership seen in the Russian armed forces.
Russian military bloggers widely recognize him for his efforts to minimize unnecessary losses, unlike other commanders who were more willing to sacrifice soldiers to demonstrate successful outcomes.
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In explaining his dismissal, Popov highlighted the challenging situation he faced with the top leadership.
He said: “I faced a difficult situation with the top leadership when I had to either keep silent and act like a coward, saying what they wanted to hear, or call things by their names.
“I didn’t have the right to lie for the sake of you and our fallen comrades.”
The dismissal of Popov has sparked concerns among military bloggers, who argue that it has negatively impacted troop morale, especially during ongoing relentless attacks by Ukraine.
Some bloggers, like Vladislav Shurygin, see it as a severe blow to the entire army, while others, such as Roman Saponkov, describe it as a horrendous act of terror against the morale of the armed forces.
Professor Clarke noted: “President Putin is at present in the midst of a purge of his senior leadership because of the Prigozhin attempted coup of a few weeks ago, and so far 28 senior military most than one or two star and three-star generals, are believe to have been questioned.
“15 have already been sacked, and a lot of others are living under a cloud.”
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