A top Russian-backed official has claimed the Ukrainian army outnumbered Russian and pro-Russian forces by eight times in the last week, following Kyiv’s sweeping offensive in the east.
“Talking about the forces that have been transferred for the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian army, it outnumbered our troops by about eight times, no less,” Vitaly Ganchev, the most senior Russian backed official in the northeastern Kharkiv region, told Russia 24 on Monday, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
Ganchev echoed other Russian officials in attempting to present Moscow’s retreat as a decision to regroup further from the front line.
“Therefore, in order to preserve our personnel, I think it was decided to withdraw, regroup,” he added.
CNN cannot independently verify Ganchev’s claims.
Some background: Russia’s recent collapse in the northeastern region of Kharkiv has been met with stinging criticism from Kremlin loyalists — and prompted the question of how Moscow will respond to its failure.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has supplied thousands of fighters to the offensive, said “mistakes were made,” in a Telegram post on Sunday. Kadyrov added that he would be contacting senior officials at the Defense Ministry to spell out his message.
Kholmogorov, a blogger and staunch advocate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, also joined the chorus of criticism leveled at Moscow.
They reposted an equally scathing account by the Partizan Telegram channel from the front lines.
“The soldiers were on foot with one machine gun and a sack. Abandoned by the command, not knowing the way, they walked at random,” the post said.
“Lord, save the Russian soldiers from blows from the front and even more from blows in the back.”
CNN’s Tim Lister and Darya Tarasova contributed reporting.