A Russian army general has said he was fired for telling the truth about the war in Ukraine and conditions for his troops at the front, according to audio released by a Russian lawmaker.
Major General Ivan Popov commanded Russian troops in the southern Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, and led the 58th Combined Armed Army.
But in an audio message apparently intended for his soldiers but posted on Telegram on Wednesday by Andrey Gurulev, a politician and former deputy commander of Russia’s Southern Military Command, Popov appears to be saying he was removed from his post for telling the truth.
“I called things by their proper name, focusing on what was most important: the tragedy of modern warfare. This is the absence of counter-battery combat, reconnaissance and the massive injuries of our brothers by enemy artillery,» Popov said according to the audio clip.
Gurulev, a member of United Russia, Russia’s largest party, did not say how he obtained the recording. NBC News has not been able to independently confirm Popov’s audio characteristics.
Amid setbacks, withdrawals and even an armed mutiny by mercenary fighters previously allied to Moscow, Russia has struggled to win major victories during the 16-month war in Ukraine.
According to the audio, Popov said commanders of the entire regiment reported that Ukrainian troops were unable to break through the Russian front lines, until an unspecified intervention by a senior military leader compromised their positions.
«We were hit from the rear by our superior commander, treacherously and basely decapitating the army at the most difficult and tense moment,» he said.
It is unclear which incident Popov was referring to.
Popov expressed his gratitude and support for his soldiers, whom he calls gladiators due to their callsign «Spartak» or Spartacus.
«On behalf of him and all our fallen comrades-in-arms, I had no right to lie, therefore I have outlined all the troubling issues that exist in the military today in terms of combat work and support,» he said. saying.
Andrey Turchak, a Russian senator and deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council, referred to Popov’s audio on Thursday, saying it was an internal message meant only for the 58th Army.
“The fact that ‘deputy’ Gurulev somehow got it and turned it into a political spectacle should remain on your conscience. The same as the other statements and comments from him, ”Turchak said on Telegram.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the private military group Wagner that led last month’s abortive mutiny, had long complained that the country’s top military commanders, namely Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and chief of staff Valery Gerasimov They did not provide their troops with enough ammunition or supplies. to seize territory in eastern Ukraine.
Popov’s statement adds to speculation about widespread discontent with leadership among Russia’s military.
NBC News has contacted the Ministry of Defense for comment.