Russian Pundit Who Condemned Ukraine War Changes His Mind Two Days Later

A military analyst has returned to the Kremlin propaganda TV channel where he gave a damning critique of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine that subsequently went viral.

However, Mikhail Khodaryonok, a former air defense commander, on Wednesday gave a rosier view of Russia's military capabilities than on Monday, when he warned the situation for Russian troops "will frankly get worse."

That clip was viewed more than 6 million times, with many noting the stony-faced demeanor of anchor Olga Skabeyeva—dubbed the Kremlin's "propagandist-in-chief," who usually trumpets Russian successes in the campaign and lambastes the West for its support of Kyiv.

Amid speculation that an unvarnished view of Russia's faltering campaign had unexpectedly been delivered to the millions who watch Russia-1's 60 Minutes, Khodaryonok returned to the airwaves on Wednesday, but with a more positive spin.

Referring to video that the Russian defense ministry said showed Moscow's forces successfully striking U.S-supplied M-777 howitzers, Khodaryonok said that these American weapons would be Russia's "most high priority targets."

Different View

"We have every reason to believe that in the near future, all that will remain of those howitzers will be memories" he said, and that hitting the weapons "will be accomplished."

Unlike his earlier appearance, in which he warned that Ukrainian troops were prepared to fight "to the last man," Khodaryonok described on Wednesday the "invalidity" of claims that Kyiv's forces were "having major successes" and were ready "to launch counter offensives."

He said that Ukrainian forces had "failed" in their first attempt to take Snake Island, a small, rocky piece of land in the Black Sea that was the site of a fierce battle between Ukraine and Russia.

He believed that for a successful naval operation to take the land "they need at the very least to gain aerial supremacy in the next few months," which he said would be "impossible."

"To carry out a naval landing operation," he said, "they need to gain naval supremacy. But while our Black Sea Fleet is in the Black Sea, Ukraine's Black Sea Fleet having supremacy is out of the question."

"So when people talk about Ukraine acquiring the ability to counterattack," he said, "it's a big exaggeration.

"Regarding the actions of our supreme commander, there is every reason to believe that the implementation of these plans will in the very near future give Ukraine an unpleasant surprise." Newsweek has contacted Ukraine's defense ministry for comment.

The clip was tweeted by BBC Monitoring's Francis Scarr, and as of Thursday morning, it had been viewed more than 500,000 times. "Just two days after he gave a damning assessment of Russia's war in Ukraine and its growing international isolation—It appears that someone's given him a bit of a talking to," Scarr wrote.

It comes as Russia's defense ministry said that about 800 fighters in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have surrendered over the last day and have been taken to a former prison colony in a Russian-controlled part of Donetsk.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia's reported use of "laser weapons" capable of taking down drones, was a sign of their military failures in the war.

Ukrainian serviceman
A Ukrainian serviceman on a destroyed Russian army tank not far from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on April 3, 2022. Russian military analyst Mikhail Khodaryonok gave state TV a more positive spin on Russia's capabilities in Ukraine on May 19, 2022, than he did on a previous program. Getty Images/SERGEI SUPINSKY