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Putin turns on a prominent milblogger

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Russian ‘milblogging’ is an interesting phenomenon of the Special Military Operation.  Almost all milboggers are fervent nationalists, and some are self-evidently very well informed.  Nationalism doesn’t always prevent them from being critical of their own side and, since most of them have high regard for the ordinary Russian soldier, their criticism is mostly aimed at the General Staff and points north, all the way up to Putin himself in some cases, encoded or en clair.  Given the epic military and geopolitical failings of Putin’s Plan and its utterly crass execution (see this blog passim), they’ve had plenty to complain about.

Behind the glass wall, facing the cameras

And none more so than Igor Girkin, a.k.a. Strelkov, an individual of illuminating historical perspectives, genuine military knowledge and indeed military accomplishments in many spheres of combat.  A genuine do-er as well as thinker (he even enlisted as a private soldier and went to the front during autumn 2022: no joke, at the age of 51.)  Now, we know whom we’re talking of here: the man convicted in absentia of being responsible for the downing of the Malaysian airliner; who headed Russia’s proxy forces in the Donbass, etc etc etc.  On his own admission, in some of these conflicts he has ordered prisoners be shot out of hand.  He is, in short, a single-minded & ruthless operator with blood on his hands, as well as a fervent Russian nationalist.

But that doesn’t detract from his knowledge and insight.  As a judgement from a distance, I’d also assess that he’s entirely straight (within his own frame of reference) and sea-green incorruptible.  And brave with it.  Insofar as one can tell.  He has frequently given airings to views that oppose his own, and admitted mistakes.  (He also has the tremendous Russian facility for heavy-duty sarcasm: I have to believe many of his American readers would have a lot of difficulty in making out some of what he writes.)   And now he’s been locked up.

Why now?  Good question, since Putin has put up with his trenchant critique for well over a year.  Well, characters like this are always difficult to deal with.  Strelkov was initially surprised by the invasion, and on the very first day presciently offered the observation that the attempted coup de main against Kyiv itself via the heli-landing at Hostomel was risky.  However, he immediately suppressed his doubts in public and, in his nationalism, loyally tracked events online in as supportive a mode as he could muster.  That lasted for about a month, after which he could no longer contain his disgust at how badly the invasion was being, and has subsequently been, conducted.  And in ever greater and compellingly accurate technical detail – the criticisms not of an armchair general** but as one who could have done better himself, even with the inadequate forces Putin threw into the fray.  

In his nationalism, Strelkov has long been deeply suspicious of Wagner, and had no time for what he called its “Verdun” strategy at Bakhmut.  But it was Prigozhin’s Moscow-bound flying column that tipped him over the edge:  Wagner deliberately spilled Russian blood on its way north and that, for Strelkov, was the limit.  Unrestrained rants against Prigozhin followed.  Now obviously, Putin and Prig have come to a tense and complex modus vivendi; and it would seem that non-stop carping from sniper Strelkov is no longer acceptable.

The irony, of course, is that if they’d followed his sound military prescriptions from around mid March 2022, they’d be in a lot better shape than they are now.

I shall miss Strelkov’s bracing analyses.  



** We had some amusing BTL contributions mocking my own rather distant armchair commentary, but the authors might like to go back and check: I got to Strelkov’s conclusion – it wasn’t difficult – quicker than he did, at least in public. 


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