'the colonel has been reined back in'
Viewers of Russian state TV's flagship 60 Minutes program were treated Monday to an unusual spectacle: a prominent Russian military analyst, former Col. Mikhail Khodarenok, sharply criticizing Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
"In many ways, it's a case of 'I told you so' from Mr. Khodarenok," who wrote in February that despite what the "enthusiastic hawks and hasty cuckoos" claim, "an armed conflict with Ukraine is not in Russia's national interests," BBC News reports. Khodarenok was right, then and now, retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling told CNN on Tuesday.
"Criticism in print is one thing," BBC News notes. "But on TV — to an audience of millions — that is another level completely. The Kremlin has gone out of its way to control the informational landscape," and "it is rare to hear such realistic analysis of events on Russian TV." On Wednesday, 60 Minutes had Khodarenok on again, and he sounded very different.
"When people talk about Ukraine acquiring the ability to counterattack, well it's a big exaggeration," Khodarenok said Wednesday afternoon. "And as concerns the actions of our supreme command, there is every reason to believe that the implementation of these plans will in the very near future give Ukraine an unpleasant surprise."
"On Monday, many found themselves wondering whether Khodarenok had been allowed to pierce the bubble of state TV's alternative reality in order to manage expectations in the 'special military operation,'" BBC News reports. "But narratives are tightly controlled by the Kremlin, and to backpedal so soon surely suggests that the colonel has been reined back in."
Khodarenok "seems to have changed his tune since yesterday," Hertling agreed, but when he talks about "how Russian artillery is hitting Ukraine's new M777 [howitzers]," Khodarenok is "full of BS," and he "should go back to stating how bad Russia is doing in this war, and not propagandizing the poor effects of Russian artillery against Ukraine."
The U.S. has delivered all 90 of its promised M777 howitzers and 79 of them "are actually forward deployed with the Ukrainians, providing indirect fire capability. They're actually in combat," a senior defense official said Wednesday. "We've had no indications that the Russians have actually hit any storage of shipments coming from Western nations," the official added. "We think they are certainly trying to disrupt that flow but we have no indications that they've been successful with that and the flow continues."