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Russian state media ordered not to talk about 100th day of Putin’s war in Ukraine because it’s going so poorly

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This article by John Haltiwanger was originally published by Business Insider.

Russian state media outlets have been ordered not to discuss the fact that Friday marks 100 days since the onset of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, per reporting from the Latvia-based outlet Meduza, which cited a source in Russia’s presidential administration, among others.

The Kremlin is apparently concerned that highlighting how long Putin’s unprovoked war has lasted will shine an uncomfortable light on the Russian military’s failures in the conflict. 

“Focusing on dates related to the war can make Russians think about the goals and success of the invasion,” the unnamed source said, adding, “When talking about a round date, questions always arise: what has been achieved by this date?”

In early February, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley told Congress that Kyiv was expected to fall in roughly 72 hours if Russia invaded. Indeed, Russia was essentially expected to roll over Ukrainian forces and easily conquer the former Soviet republic. But Ukraine put up a far stiffer resistance than expected, and the war has been raging for over three months.

The Russian military has largely struggled to achieve its objectives in Ukraine, failing to seize the country’s two largest cities — Kyiv and Kharkiv.

It’s also estimated that Russia has lost as many as 15,000 troops in the war, if not more, and a staggering number of Russian generals have been among those killed.

Moscow, which has gone to extreme lengths to keep the Russian public in the dark on how poorly the war has gone so far, hasn’t released an updated official death toll since late March. At the time, the Russian government claimed that 1,351 soldiers had been killed. This week, a top Russian lawmaker pushed the outlandish claim that Russian troops have “practically” stopped being killed in the conflict — even as fierce fighting continues. 

After falling short in its effort to take the Ukrainian capital, Russia has turned its attention to Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region in recent weeks. The Russian military has made modest progress in the east. It finally conquered Mariupol in mid-May after a brutal campaign that left the port city in ruins. Russian forces are also seemingly on the verge of seizing Sievierodonetsk — a major city and key industrial center that’s crucial to Russia’s plans in the Donbas region.

At the same time, there have been consistent reports of the Russian military struggling with exhaustion and low morale after months of fighting, raising questions as to whether Russia has the wherewithal to capitalize on and maintain recent gains on the battlefield

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday told the Luxembourgish parliament that Russia now controls about one-fifth of Ukraine. “The Russian army has already destroyed almost the entire Donbas,” Zelenskyy said.

As the Russian onslaught persists, Ukraine has continued to push for more aid from the West, emphasizing the need for more heavy weaponry. The Biden administration this week unveiled a new $700 million military aid package to Ukraine that includes advanced rockets. 

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Alex Hollings

Alex Hollings is a writer, dad, and Marine veteran.