Kremlin firing commanders in Ukraine ‘to deflect blame from leadership in Russia’ say UK defence chiefs

Kremlin firing commanders in Ukraine ‘to deflect blame from leadership in Russia’ say UK defence chiefs

The Kremlin is firing commanders of the Russian army in Ukraine 'to deflect blame from senior leadership at home' for war failings, UK defence chiefs have said.

The ministry of defence released a statement on Sunday after Colonel General Alexander Lapin was purportedly sacked as commander of Russia’s Central Military District at the end of October.

Mr Lapin had been “widely criticised for poor performance on the battlefield” by both Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Yevgeny Prigozhin - head of military organisation Wagner group.

The ministry’s statement added: “These dismissals represent a pattern of blame against senior Russian military commanders for failures to achieve Russian objectives on the battlefield.

“This is in part likely an attempt to insulate and deflect blame from Russian senior leadership at home.”

Mr Lapin has been replaced by Major General Alexander Linkov as acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District.

The commanders of the eastern, southern, and western military districts were replaced earlier this year, the ministry said.

There has been no official statement from the Russian side.

Mr Lapin was previously criticised for taking a three-week holiday in the midst of battle.

His dismissal comes after Russian forces were driven out of the strategic logistics hub of Lyman in eastern Ukraine.

In September, the deputy defence minister in charge of logistics, General Dmitry Bulgakov, was replaced by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.

Mr Bulgakov was accused by the European Union of orchestrating a siege of the Ukrainian port of Mariupol early in the conflict that killed thousands of civilians.

Previously, in August, the state-owned RIA news agency reported the unnamed commander of the Black Sea Fleet had been fired after a series of humiliations including the sinking of a key ship and the loss of eight war planes in an attack on a Russian base in Crimea.