The commander of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine, Sergey Surovikin, spoke for the first time on state television ten days after taking office. The military, also known as “General Armageddon”, was unusually open about the new Kremlin strategy.

Every war is several wars in one: In addition to the military conflict itself, there is often an economic war and an information war. The latter is about wearing down the opponent through targeted false information or giving them a false sense of security. On Tuesday evening there was an unusual appearance on Russian state television. It is possible that this could have been targeted disinformation, but unlikely.

Generalobert Surovikin painted a bleak picture for his soldiers in front of the TV cameras for the strategically important city of Cherson in southern Ukraine. “The situation is difficult on this front section,” he admitted. So no chest drumming, no high-flying slogans, no “We’ll win this easily!”

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The appearance was also unusual because Russian generals don’t usually go on television. Surovikin’s appearance was the first of its kind in almost eight months of war. The 55-year-old army general went on to say that caution would now be taken and “difficult decisions” might be necessary. It is possible that “General Armageddon” indicates the withdrawal of his troops from the city that was conquered in March.

What do you think of these amazingly frank statements? “The commander-in-chief will not say anything, especially nothing that important, unless it has been agreed with the president,” explains Russia expert Stefan Meister from the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). This shows that the situation is really serious and that they have started to communicate more honestly when a withdrawal is imminent. “More realism is coming to the top of the Russian military.”

At the same time, only a few days after Surovikin took office, Russia began to cover large parts of Ukraine with terror attacks. Everywhere in the country, including the capital Kyiv, so-called kamikaze drones of Iranian design of the Shahed-136 type hit in addition to rockets. A success from Moscow’s point of view. “Conversely, more realism does not mean that Russia is giving up and will now lose more parts,” emphasizes Meister to FOCUS online.

“The battle for Kherson is not the battle at other points,” continues the expert. Meister is convinced that Russia will continue to systematically destroy infrastructure and is preparing for a long war with the partial mobilization and training of new troops. “Putin has not given up on his goal just because his army is unlikely to be able to hold Kherson.”

So far, the kamikaze drones have been difficult for the Ukrainian air defense to detect. Has Putin found a loophole in his deadlocked war? “He didn’t have many options and at the moment this is an efficient way to destroy the infrastructure,” says Meister. Now the western side will probably upgrade with anti-aircraft defenses in mind in order to at least partially close this gap again. For defense against drones, NATO has already promised Ukraine devices that disrupt their electronics – so-called jammers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the drone attack a declaration of bankruptcy by Moscow. Russia has spent decades pouring billions of dollars into its military-industrial complex, but now it has to rely on “pretty simple drones and missiles” from Tehran. The bombardment of Ukraine with swarms of these drones might give the Russians tactical hope. It won’t help them strategically anyway, according to Zelenskyj.

“The war goes on, Russia will continue to try to destroy civilian infrastructure to limit morale among the population and to bring more Ukrainian refugees to Europe so that we can pressure Ukraine to give in,” clarifies Russia expert Most . In addition, there are possible further interruptions in gas deliveries. “I don’t think that the war will stop in winter, we will just keep fighting despite bad weather conditions, albeit at a slightly lower level.”

The war in Ukraine is at a turning point, says military expert Carlo Masala. Ukraine is now under a lot of pressure and Putin is using drones because missiles are too expensive, according to the politics professor. The Kremlin boss could now open a second front and then offer a ceasefire, says the expert in a “Stern” podcast.

Russia wants to ramp up production of its own aircraft as quickly as possible. The state-owned company Rostec makes it clear how many planes should be delivered by 2030.

Hardly anyone “reads” Vladimir Putin and the Russians as knowledgeably as the Russian writer Viktor Erofeev, who fled to Germany. Germany’s Chancellor should meet with him. And be prepared for some uncomfortable truths.