Jul 14, 2023, 9:03am EDT

What it means: The Russian military is in turmoil

Major General Ivan Popov, who commanded Russia's 58th Combined Arms Army, is seen in this image released on June 9, 2023. Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

Sign up for Semafor Principals: What the White House is reading. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

A top Russian army official says he was ousted from the military for his honesty about the situation facing his country on the front lines of the war in Ukraine.

Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov accused top Russian brass of incompetence and treason, the Wall Street Journal reported, and claims he was fired for telling military leaders the truth about the situation on the ground and accusing the defense ministry of betraying troops.

Title icon


  • Popov alleged via a voice memo to troops that he was removed from his posting after he told officials, including the chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, that the war was being mismanaged. The comments are similar to those made by Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu of high numbers of Russian casualties. — The Wall Street Journal
  • It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Russian military commanders: One was killed in an airstrike, one has disappeared following Wagner’s mutiny, another was gunned down while jogging, and Popov has accused other top brass of being traitors. Gen. Sergei Surovikin hasn’t been seen since allegations emerged that he had prior knowledge of Prigozhin’s rebellion. — The New York Times
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly offered Wagner soldiers the opportunity to serve in the Russian military following the revolt, Kommersant reported. Prigozhin refused, but some top commanders were willing to join ranks with Putin’s army. “Nothing would have changed for [the soldiers],” Putin told Kommersant.
Title icon

Know More

Popov’s allegations are evidence of the widespread discontent within Russia’s military, the Journal notes.

“The biggest tragedy of contemporary war is the absence of counter-battery capabilities, the absence of artillery reconnaissance, and the mass death and maiming of our brothers as a result of the enemy’s artillery,” Popov said in his audio message to troops.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov did not comment on Popov’s allegations when pressed by a BBC reporter.

Surovikin, who has been missing since intelligence emerged that he had prior knowledge of Wagner’s uprising, is “resting,” according to senior Russian leadership. Some Russian media outlets have reported that Surovikin was arrested, but those reports have not yet been confirmed.