Russian state TV pundit makes rare admission of failure in Ukraine

‘Russia miscalculated its strength and after eight months still can’t win’ in Ukraine, state TV pundit says in rare admission of failure – while also doubting Kyiv has a ‘dirty bomb’

  • Andrey Norkin, state TV host, quizzed panelist Viktor Olevich about Ukraine 
  • Olevich responded that Russia ‘miscalculated’ and has failed to win the war 
  • He also cast doubt on ‘dirty bomb’ that Russia claims Ukraine is building
  • Norkin seemed taken by surprise, and tried to shut his comments down 

Russia miscalculated its strength and is losing the war in Ukraine, an expert told state media last night in a rare and risky outburst. 

Viktor Olevich, a well-known ‘Americanist’ within Russia and chief analyst at the Centre for Actual Politics, told viewers and a stunned host that Russia ‘cannot win’ despite eight months of fighting.

Olevich, who was schooled in the US but now lives in Moscow, also cast doubt on Russia’s claims that Ukraine is building a ‘dirty bomb’ despite the protests of host Andrey Norkin.

While Olevich has a reputation for not always towing the party line, his remarks are none-the-less a stunning admission of failure made in public.

Viktor Olevich, a well-known ‘Americanist’ within Russia, gave a particularly blunt admission of failure on state TV last night 

He made the remark Monday night as host Norkin asked him about calls between Russia’s top brass and their counterparts in the UK and US over the ‘dirty bomb’.

‘The Americans called us,’ Norkin proudly remarked, before adding: ‘How does it look, [and] what may come of it?’

Olevich said: ‘Here is approximately how it all looks. Russia initiated a special military operation, miscalculated its strength, and for eight straight months can’t win. 

‘At the same time, we’re complaining and getting upset that our opponents – the same countries that want to neutralise Russia, to dismember and destroy us – don’t believe us, don’t support us and aren’t listening.’

Norkin shot back: ‘We aren’t complaining, we’re outraged, I would say.’

But Olevich continued: ‘We can be outraged and angry until we turn blue, but it will in no way solve our problems.’

Turning to the so-called ‘dirty bomb’ – a charge laced with radioactive material that Russia is claiming Ukraine will detonate on its own soil – Olevich cast doubt on it.

‘If there is real information, real evidence, as to where this dirty bomb is located, where they are planning to use it, [then] where are the documents,’ he asked.

‘Show the documents – these provocations don’t happen without orders. If Russia’s military intelligence has all this data, it’s time to reveal it.’

Olevich’s doubts chime with Washington and London, which have both said there is no evidence to support Russia’s claims and the allegation has caused suspicion that Russia is actually the one about to resort to atomic weapons.

Olevich’s comments, while not unique, are one of just a handful of protests against the war that Russian TV viewers have got to see since Putin invaded in February.

Marina Ovsyannikova, a reporter with Channel One, made it on-air back in March with a sign protesting the war and accusing state TV of lying to viewers.

And Mikhail Khodarenok, a retired Russian colonel, has occasionally given a withering assessment of the military’s performance.

But, at least until recently, full-throated criticism was rare.

However, since Russia has been forced back on both northern and southern fronts even the Kremlin’s usual sycophants have become critical.

While careful not to directly attack Putin, several prominent propagandists have slammed the war effort and suggested those in charge are incompetent.

Putin aimed to spend just a few days fighting in Ukraine to topple the government and reassert Russia as a great power state.

Putin is desperately trying to hold on to the territory he has taken after his assault ground to a halt, but is struggling to hold back Ukraine’s army

But instead he has found his military trapped in a grinding war of attrition that has left it badly mauled.

He has so-far failed to achieve any of the aims he set for himself – either the seizure of Kyiv or ‘liberation’ of the Donbas – and is instead trying to hold on to what territory he has managed to take.

But even that effort is failing as Ukraine advances through Kharkiv and into the Donbas in the north and east, and in Kherson in the south.

Putin’s top commander Sergei Surovikin has said the situation in Kherson is ‘tense’ and hinted that a retreat might be necessary. 

President Zelensky has said publicly that his military intends to keep pushing all the way to Crimea – which Russia annexed in 2014 – where the war will end.  

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