What will Russia’s losses mean for Putin?

You can normally expect Russian state TV’s flagship weekly news programme to trumpet Kremlin successes. But yesterday’s edition opened with a rare admission. “On the frontlines of the special operation [in Ukraine], this has been the toughest week so far,” declared sombre-looking anchor Dmitry Kiselev. “It was particularly tough along the Kharkiv front, where following an onslaught by enemy forces that outnumbered ours, [Russian] troops were forced to leave towns they had previously liberated.” For “liberated”, read “seized”. Moscow had occupied those areas months ago, but after a lightning counter-offensive by the Ukrainian army, the Russian military has lost considerable territory in north-east Ukraine. Still, Russian state media are putting a brave face on things. Officially, what happened in Kharkiv region isn’t being referred to here as a “retreat”. “The Russian defence ministry dismissed rumours that Russian troops fled in disgrace from Balakliya, Kupiansk and Izyum,” claimed the latest edition of the government paper, Rossiyskaya Gazeta. “They didn’t flee. This was a pre-planned regrouping.”(BBC)…[+]