President Putin’s invading forces are no match for a million motivated Ukrainian fighters, a former colonel has admitted on Russia’s state television in a damning assessment of the conflict.
Mikhail Khodarenok, a Kremlin military strategist and retired air defence commander, used his platform on Russia’s most watched talk show to stress that “the whole world is against us”.
He appealed to political leaders and the Russian public to stop taking “informational sedatives” and accept that the “situation for us will clearly get worse” as the West continued to arm determined Ukrainians with modern weapons.
In surprisingly frank comments which openly criticised the Kremlin’s official propaganda narratives, Khodarenok said Russia’s population had been fed lies about a lack of morale and psychological breakdowns among Ukrainian ranks and rejected claims that their mood was “close to crisis”.
“To put it mildly, this is not true,” he said, adding that Ukraine would soon have mobilised more than a million soldiers who will be trained and be ready to “spill blood for their motherland”.
He argued that despite most being conscripted, they are “ready to fight” to defend their country, which ultimately determines “victory on the battlefield”. He added: “The main thing in our business is have a sense of military-political realism: if you go beyond that then the reality of history will hit you so hard that you will not know what hit you.”
Referring to the Russian government’s reaction to moves by Finland and Sweden to join Nato in light of the invasion, Khodarenok said: “Don’t wave rockets in the direction of Finland for goodness sake — it just looks rather funny.”
As the former head of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff and the editor of an influential military journal, Khodarenok has strong ties with active-duty senior officers. He has previously been sceptical of Russia’s prospects of success in Ukraine.
But with Russian media coverage heavily censored to present a positive and one-sided view of Putin’s “special military operation”, his latest broadcast remarks were notably frank.
Batting back frequent interruptions from the show’s host, Olga Skabeyeva — who toes the Kremlin line so closely that she has become known as the “iron doll of Putin TV” — Khodarenok outlined Russia’s situation from the “general strategic position”.
“Considering that European assistance will start working in full, we need to treat this million Ukrainian soldiers as a reality in the nearest future,” he said.
As Skabeyeva objected that those men would be conscripts, he insisted that what really matters is not how an army is recruited but its willingness to fight.
“A desire to protect one’s homeland, in the sense that it exists in Ukraine, it really does exist there, they intend to fight to the last man,” he said. “Ultimately victory on the battlefield is determined by a high level of morale among personnel, which sheds blood for the ideas which it’s prepared to fight for.”
Turning to the world stage, he said: “The biggest problem with our military and our political situation is that we are in total geopolitical isolation. The whole world is against us, even if we don’t want to admit it.
“Sooner or later reality will hit you so hard you won’t know what’s hit you . . . We need to resolve this.”
Other Russian loyalists have also voiced dissent in recent days.
Yesterday Igor Girkin, a former intelligence officer who is now an influential blogger, declared that the offensive in the Donbas region has failed.
Girkin summarised the situation on his Telegram channel, saying Russia’s intention to launch attacks in the east was “so obvious” that Ukrainian forces have been able to resist.
He added: “With regret I must say that the widely advertised […] operation to defeat the Donetsk group of the enemy has failed. In more than two weeks of fierce hostilities (which have cost both sides huge losses) only tactical successes have been reached. Not a single large locality has been liberated.”
Girkin said some “local tactical successes” could be achieved ahead of a Ukrainian counter-offensive but that it was unlikely that the Donbas region would be “fully liberated”.
He said: “It’s likely the [Ukrainian armed forces] will not even be pushed away from the outskirts of Donetsk. And I cannot say that this result is unexpected for me. Quite the opposite.”
Khodarenok’s comments came as US defence officials revealed that Russia had now committed 80 per cent of its battalion tactical groups to the war in Ukraine, and that Putin “doesn’t have a whole lot” to add to the fight.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence also warned that Russia would resort to intensifying its artillery strikes in the coming weeks in an attempt to regain momentum in its faulting advances across the Donbas region.
The MoD noted that previously, in the Chernihiv region north of Kyiv, approximately 3,500 buildings are estimated to have been destroyed or damaged during Russia’s abandoned advance towards the Ukrainian capital. About 80 per cent of the damage has been caused to residential buildings.
The scale of this damage indicates Russia’s preparedness to use artillery against inhabited areas, with “minimal regard to discrimination or proportionality”, an intelligence update said.