Russia May Be Upending Military Command

Zelensky says Donbas 'completely destroyed'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2022 8:17 AM CDT
Russia May Be Upending Military Command
In this photo taken from a video released by the Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday, May 19, 2022, Ukrainian servicemen are seen in a penal colony after leaving the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.   (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

(Newser) – Russia has shaken up its military leadership after some high-profile failures in Ukraine, though the changes may not lead to more battlefield success, according to a British intelligence assessment. Britain's Ministry of Defense tweeted Thursday that senior commanders had been fired or suspended as punishment for setbacks including the sinking of Russia's Black Sea flagship and the failure to capture Kharkiv. The ministry predicted that many officials involved in the invasion "will likely be increasingly distracted by efforts to avoid personal culpability" for military setbacks.

"This will likely place further strain on Russia's centralized model of command and control, as officers increasingly seek to defer key decisions to their superiors," the ministry tweeted. "It will be difficult for Russia to regain the initiative under these conditions." Russia has not publicly disclosed any changes in military leadership, the New York Times reports. In another intellgence update Friday, the British ministry said up to 1,700 Ukrainian fighters at a beseiged steel plant in Mariupol are now believed to have surrendered to Russian forces, but an "unknown number of Ukranian forces" remain inside the Azovstal plant.

The ministry said Russian forces in Mariupol will likely soon be deployed to aid the offensive elsewhere in eastern Ukraine—but commanders are under heavy pressure to achieve objectives, meaning "Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition." In his nightly address Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had already "completely destroyed" the eastern Donbas region, the Guardian reports. He said the destruction of Donbas and attacks elsewhere in Ukraine had no "military explanation," but were a "deliberate and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible" and to "destroy as many houses, social facilites, and enterprises as possible." (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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