Why Ukraine should be encouraged by Putin’s bluster over its counteroffensive

The president and his military chiefs have sought to claim extreme Ukrainian troop losses, writes James Nixey – a sure sign that things were not going well for the Kremlin

Friday 16 June 2023 14:17 BST
A Ukrainian soldier in the Zaporizhzhia region
A Ukrainian soldier in the Zaporizhzhia region (Reuters)

For years there has been a joke-cum-truism, well-articulated by the Twitter parodist ‘Darth Putin’, that you should “never believe anything unless the Kremlin officially denies it”. It’s a tried and tested rule of thumb. There is even an inversely proportional relationship between the speed of the Kremlin denial and the refutation’s distance from the truth. Immediate repudiation multiplied by Kremlin’s anger level equals lie.

So when President Vladimir Putin claimed to his propagandists (sometimes erroneously called Russian war correspondents) at a meeting this week that Ukraine was suffering ten times the losses of Russia in the former’s counteroffensive, this was surely a sign that things were not going well for the Kremlin.

Indeed, the apparent cancellation or scaling-down of the regular features of what passes for political openness in Russia – from May’s Red Square parades to the June ‘Direct-line’ phone-in with Putin himself (already pure theatre) – is a much better indicator of the Kremlin’s anxiousness.

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