Moscow replaced its top logistics general on Saturday after several setbacks as Kremlin-held areas of eastern and southern Ukraine voted for a second day on becoming part of Russia.
The change of guard comes amid a major mobilization campaign by Russia after discovering widespread logistical difficulties following the invasion of Ukraine, Kyiv is now taking back more and more territory.
The Russian offensive and the recent advance achieved by the Ukrainian military in a mild counter-offensive have left some significant logistical flaws, with some analysts viewing logistics as the weak link in Moscow’s military.
The Defense Ministry said “Army General Dmitry Bulgakov has been relieved from the post of Deputy Defense Minister” and will be replaced by 60-year-old Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.
Russia’s partial mobilization announced on Wednesday will likely be one of their first major logistical challenges, requiring hundreds of thousands of reservists to be equipped and trained before deployment.
Voting on whether Russia should annex four regions of Ukraine began on Friday, seven months after Moscow’s troops invaded the region dramatically at stake.
US President Joe Biden has dismissed the referendum as a “sham…”, a false excuse to attempt to force annexation of parts of Ukraine in open violation of international law.
Beijing, Moscow’s closest ally since the war broke out in February, also reacted.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi – in remarks made to his Ukrainian counterpart Dimitro Kuleba at the UN General Assembly on Friday – “must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries”.
Voting is being held in the Russian-controlled regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhya in the south.
For four days, officials have been going door-to-door for four days to take votes. Polling stations then open on Tuesday, where residents have to cast ballots on the last day. The results are expected by late Tuesday evening or by Wednesday.
“Finally, things are moving towards the restoration of the Soviet Union. The referendum is a step in that direction,” Leonid, a 59-year-old military officer, told AFP.
The integration of the four regions into Russia would represent a major escalation of the conflict as Moscow would treat any military move there as an attack on its territory.
Ukraine’s military said they were occupying the same ground from Moscow-backed separatists that Russia wants to assimilate.
The snap referendum was announced this week after a Ukrainian counter-offensive that occupied most of northeastern Kharkiv region – bringing hundreds of settlements back under Kyiv’s control after months of Russian occupation.
Irpin, close to the capital, was recaptured after weeks of fighting and residents have rounded up to begin rebuilding before winter sets in.
More than 100 apartment blocks in Irpin – dubbed “Hero City” by President Volodymyr Zelensky to hold back Russian invaders – were badly damaged by the shelling.
The head of his building’s residents’ union, Mykhailo Kyrylenko, proudly watched the new roof take shape.
“People don’t have much money, but they agreed to donate money to gradually restore the broken houses”, he told AFP.