“There is no stability at all.” Hristo Grozev – about the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kiev and the threat of nuclear war

The American TV channel CNN, citing sources, claims that the Russian military has begun to leave the vicinity of Kiev. CNN’s interlocutors call it a “major strategic shift.” But they also admit that these forces can quickly return to position if necessary. And they fear that Russia will start new bombardments of Kyiv after the withdrawal of troops.

The summary of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine also states that the Russian army is withdrawing some troops. But, according to the APU, this does not mean that Moscow has abandoned plans to surround Kyiv. The United States is skeptical of Russia’s actions. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said it was not a “withdrawal” but a “redeployment”.

Bellingcat investigative journalist Hristo Grozev told NV whether the Russian troops were retreating, whether it was an important step towards ending the war, and whether the alleged poisoning of Russian businessman Roman Abramovich, who is involved in talks between the parties, could be true.

“Do you agree with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby?” Is it true that Russian troops are retreating?

“I agree with him.” Maybe his words weren’t quite right. He also says that they are retreating from Kiev, but may be redirected to other regions. This is what we have been observing for several days, this is what was presented as a compromise yesterday, but it was a forced decision by the Russian side. Forced only because there is no progress from Kiev, because this axis has failed. And because they need new forces on the southern and eastern axes, because they are not doing so well there either. And they feared that there would be a counterattack from the Ukrainian side. Therefore, for two reasons, they were obliged to withdraw their troops from Kiev.

Whether they will return to Kiev in a month or what John Kirby will call a “mass defeat in Kiev” is a risk that remains. But I’m not sure that the Russian leadership has made that decision yet, because they don’t know what will happen in the south and in the east.

– Sergei Shoigu said that all the tasks of the first stage have been completed. It turns out this is not true?

– It depends on how to reformulate the tasks. The figures he mentioned for the destruction of certain infrastructural parts of the Ukrainian side’s equipment are they [достаточно приблизительные]. Because he talks about what happened before the war, but does not talk about the numbers of weapons that have appeared and continue to appear on Ukrainian territory due to this war. Ukraine, on the other hand, has begun to receive a huge influx of new weapons, which are much better than the old ones, which will be much larger in the end. Therefore, it cannot be true that the demilitarization of Ukraine, which has been called one of many goals, has been accomplished.

– So it turns out that a little more militarization of Ukraine has begun?

– At least, an upgrade of the military-industrial equipment of Ukraine.

– As for the negotiations. Apparently, because a month later everyone wants the war to end, many people, including on social networks, perceived the outcome of the talks as the first step towards ending the war. Do you think so too? Or is it too early to say that this is nearing the end of hostilities?

– I will join all those experts who say that we know nothing, we do not know what is going on in Putin’s head. We can only assume that he is already being given more truthful information than before about the position of the Russian army, about the location of forces on the battlefield. And we don’t even see part of it, such as the number of deserters, the number of Russian officers and soldiers who refused to participate. This is information that they see exactly, but we do not. And based on that, he may have decided that a way out should be found on the basis of some virtual compromise. Of course, this compromise must be acceptable to the Ukrainian side. If a compromise could be found on “LPR”, “DPR” and Crimea, then one could expect the end of the war. But I do not see what decision on these three points will be acceptable to the Ukrainian side.

– About Donbass. There is also the question of the borders of the self-proclaimed republics – whether they will occupy all areas, or they will be much smaller. Russia, of course, wants them to occupy all areas. Do you think that Russia has the strength, resources, and opportunities to push the front line even deeper in the east and south?

– I expect that some of these troops, which are now withdrawn from the Sumy axis – Kyiv, they will first go to Russian territory – already began to leave yesterday – and then they will be thrown into the “DPR” and “LPR” in order to consolidate the new an area that approaches administrative boundaries. So, I think this will be the most likely guaranteed next military move by Russia – to try to consolidate these administrative boundaries.

– And how many chances do you think Russia has to do this after a month of war, which we are looking at?

– It is very difficult without new people, without new contractors. They need about 200,000 new contractors. It all depends on how well they can persuade people to sign contracts, given that the losses have been so great so far. According to information circulating among the military and soldiers, the losses are much greater than those reported in the media. So I expect that they will have a problem with that.

– Shoigu appeared, he is alive. He was out of the bunker for a while yesterday. Do you think the world has moved away from the threat of a nuclear strike from Russia?

“It’s not because Shoigu showed up, he moved on.” Of course, he must appear. All rumors about his health were unfounded. But I still believe that he will mostly be in Moscow. And while there is any risk of using mass weapons on the Russian side, this risk has not disappeared. It has shrunk because Putin excludes it with his formula. It has decreased due to the fact that there is destabilization within the security forces in Russia. It is objective, some of them have been eliminated, and all the others know the real picture of the war and know about all the losses of the Russian side.

Reducing Putin’s stability also reduces the risk that a potential nuclear weapons order will be carried out. Everyone will think, “Should I follow the orders of a man who is not guaranteed to protect me in a year or two.” Therefore, I think the risk has decreased because of this.

– People who, as you say, will not carry out the order to press the button, are such “pigeons of the world “in the military leadership of Russia?

– These are units. These are people who will most likely think about their own safety. They know the real picture of the war. This main population of Russia does not know it, and they know it. They know that there was a purge among their colleagues, they understand that there is no stability at all. And they will think that if it leads to a change of government, to street protests, a democratically elected president and so on. “What will happen to me if I carry out this order?” If they fail, they will most likely be imprisoned. And if they do, the new government will imprison them, but they can also be summoned to The Hague and so on. Therefore, such purely selfish calculations should lead to the fact that one of these five people, who are in the chain between the order and the push of a button, is likely to refuse.

– About the investigation, which you had to urgently release, about the possible poisoning of Roman Abramovich and other members of the negotiating team. Don’t you think that the very fact of poisoning does not fit in with the truce we are approaching? Why poison a negotiator if in a very short period of time the parties will find a common language in Istanbul?

– It was done on the second or third day. On the scale of the war, it’s been a long time. And here are two possible explanations. One of them, a Wall Street Journal source, said that it was most likely not the official Kremlin, not Putin himself, but a party within the Kremlin. Security officials who do not want a political solution to this crisis.

And the second explanation – even then Putin himself was part of the war and did not want peace talks, because he did not yet understand the need [таких шагов] for its part. Suddenly, different oligarchs appear, some of whom begin to speak out against the war, while others begin to take subjectivity in these negotiations and make themselves important to the West. For him, it must be the case that all oligarchs depend only on him and do not have any subjectivity in the West. Therefore, even then it could be beneficial to Russia for several reasons.

– Do you think such poisoning can theoretically be called “the use of chemical weapons”? There is a theory that the United States, for example, does not comment on these investigations precisely because, if it admits, it will be forced to fulfill its promise to somehow respond to the use of chemical weapons in Ukraine.

– My most probable explanation is that, as The Guardian and other media wrote, the American side knew about this poisoning, but decided not to talk about it. I think that version is correct, because they do not want to spoil the possibility of peace talks, they do not want to drive Putin into a corner, because it can really lead to a decision on nuclear weapons, and so on. This is a rather dangerous moment. Of course, in this situation, it is more likely that the Americans knew that it was not Putin himself, but the war party and other security forces who ordered the use of chemical weapons. Therefore, they may even be talking or talking to the Kremlin on this topic and have decided not to make it public.


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