Russian State TV Admits 'Not Everything Terrific' After Kherson Retreat

Russian experts who gather weekly on state TV to discuss their country's war with Ukraine openly admitted they were faring badly as they discussed their humiliating retreat from Kherson.

Political scientist Sergey Kurginyan became increasingly animated as he discussed Russian troops' hasty retreat from the disputed region in Ukraine and said bluntly that "not everything is so terrific." He noted Russia's isolation with the words, "we are all alone," and claimed a "big conventional war... was not supposed to happen."

Although he also parroted the official line and said it "doesn't mean we can lose," and that the withdrawal of soldiers from the area was not the defeat Ukraine and its Western allies were suggesting, his words were sharply at odds with the tone more usually seen on state television—the Kremlin's mouthpiece.

Ukraine celebrates liberation of Kherson
Jubilant Ukrainians hold their national flag and a slogan which reads, "11/11/2022 - Kherson - Ukraine," as they gather in Maidan Square, Kyiv, to celebrate the liberation of Kherson. Getty Images

Even the usually enthusiastic host of the show, Kremlin ally Vladimir Solovyov, was forced to admit "mistakes" had been made.

The footage was posted online with English translations by Daily Beast columnist Julia Davis, who created the Russian Media Monitor watchdog. Her Twitter bio, which says she has been hit by sanctions from Russia, ends with the words: "I watch Russian state TV, so you don't have to."

She uploaded the clip late on Sunday night after the show aired in Russia over the weekend.

Political scientist guest Kurginyan laid out the obstacles facing Russia, and although he bullishly claimed, "so what?" after some of his points, he nevertheless clearly set out the scale of Russia's woes.

He said: "We are all alone. So what? There are half as many of us, as compared to the USSR or the Russian Empire. So what? Our society is plagued by hedonism etc. So what? It doesn't mean that we can lose.

"If everything is terrific, why the heck are we retreating from the territories that are already part of the Russian Federation? It means that not everything is so terrific, but it doesn't mean that everything is so horrible as the Ukrainian enemy and the Western media are trying to portray. As well as the hysteria of idiots, howling like dogs after every episode, it doesn't mean that it's so. Nor does it mean that it's wonderful.

"We are a disadvantaged country, we are a territorially disadvantaged country, ours is not a comfortable location of the territory. We can hold on to our dear, beloved country only at the expense of extraordinary efforts. That is how it is. We are surrounded by neighbors who look at our territories with a great appetite, as well as everything that we have. We have a low population density. Damn it, there aren't that many of us right now. We got used to there being many of us, as there were in the Russian Empire and the USSR, but it's no longer this way...

"We've been forced into a big conventional war that has been excluded from the post-Soviet military philosophy for decades. It was not supposed to happen."

While the show's presenter Solovyov admitted "mistakes" had been made, he also appeared to remind his guest of Russians' obligation to support President Vladimir Putin.

After his guest said war "was not supposed to happen," Solovyov jumped in to say: "But we'll still have to return to Kherson, and not only to Kherson. Ukraine has to be liberated either way. In order for that to be possible, we need to work on our mistakes, fully roll out our industry, figure out who is responsible for the mistakes to realize how we are correcting them. We need to get ready and fulfil the task set by our Supreme Commander-in Chief."

Earlier this month, that host himself had previously admitted he thought the war "would be a lot easier."

Even some Ukrainians appeared surprised by the sudden retreat in Kherson, with some fearing it could be a trap.

In any case, the withdrawal of troops has highlighted how difficult Russia is finding it to maintain their illegal invasion of Ukraine. When Putin attacked back in February, he assured his people that victory in his "special military operation" would be swift.

But almost nine months on, another state TV show, which aired on Friday, saw an apparently angry and disgruntled anchor suggesting Russians had been misinformed and were not "prepared" for the reality of the fierce and bloody conflict. The clip was shared online by BBC journalist Francis Scarr.

Russian state TV's Olga Skabeyeva said: "Nobody was preparing for this kind of war. Nobody was expecting such a large, global war. Nobody was working on the basis that all 50 countries—I apologize for my slang—would stick up for Ukraine. Our army isn't big either, it isn't designed for such ambitious wars."

Newsweek has reached out to Russia's Foreign Ministry and Ukraine's Ministry of Defense for comment.