In a significant development, Maj General Ivan Popov, the commander of the 58th Army engaged in combat in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region, has been ousted from his position.
The removal follows Maj Gen Popov’s disclosure of the harsh reality on the front line to military leaders. Expressing his concerns about the high casualty rate and the lack of artillery support, Maj Gen Popov chose to prioritize honesty over silence.
In a voice message, Maj Gen Popov expressed his dilemma, stating, “It was necessary either to keep quiet and be a coward or to say it the way it is. I had no right to lie in the name of you, in the name of my fallen comrades in arms, so I outlined all the problems which exist.” Russian MP Andrei Gurulyov, a former military commander and regular commentator on state TV, shared the voice message on Telegram. The exact date of the recording remains unknown.
Maj General Popov drew attention to various issues he had raised with his superiors. He highlighted the lack of adequate counter battery systems to fend off Ukrainian artillery attacks, as well as a deficiency in military intelligence. According to reliable Russian military bloggers, who often serve as a valuable source in the absence of official statements, the decision to dismiss Maj Gen Popov came from Gen Valery Gerasimov, the head of Russia’s armed forces. Maj General Popov was accused of “alarmism and blackmailing senior management” after advocating for the rotation of frontline soldiers who had sustained significant losses.
Expressing his disappointment, Maj General Popov asserted, “The senior chiefs apparently sensed some kind of danger from me and quickly concocted an order from the defense minister in just one day and got rid of me. The Ukrainian army could not break through our ranks at the front but our senior chief hit us from the rear, viciously beheading the army at the most difficult and intense moment.”
As of now, the Russian defense ministry has not provided any comments regarding the dismissal. However, a senior official from the pro-government United Russia party, to which Mr. Gurulyov belongs, criticized the MP for turning Maj General Popov’s remarks into a “political show.” The official pointed out that Maj Gen Popov’s statement was not public and had been posted in closed chats of the commanders and troops of the 58th Army.
Zaporizhzhia and the eastern Donetsk region have emerged as the focal points of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which commenced over a month ago but has encountered difficulties penetrating well-established Russian defensive lines.
In a separate development, a Russian MP disclosed that former Russian commander Gen Sergei Surovikin, who has not been seen in public since the Wagner mutiny, is currently “resting.” Gen Surovikin was known for his close ties to former Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, and there were media reports suggesting his arrest following the brief revolt. However, no official confirmation or comment has been provided regarding his whereabouts.
Moreover, there are reports that Lt Gen Oleg Tsokov, another senior Russian general, was killed in a strike in Ukraine’s occupied south coast this week. The Russian defense ministry has not yet confirmed his death.