Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia’s Chechen Republic, called for Ukraine’s cities to be “erased from the earth” as he once again criticized the military’s handling of the war.
Weeks after criticizing the way the conflict has been handled so far, Kadyrov, a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Moscow is “responding weakly” to Kyiv’s counteroffensive to retake the southern Kherson region, and shelling in other areas that Putin has proclaimed to have annexed.
In an audio message on his Telegram channel on Monday night, Kadyrov for the first time also described Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine as a “war.”
“We used to say that we were conducting a special military operation on the territory of Ukraine, but the war is already going on on our territory. And my opinion, in case you’re wondering, I’m very unhappy with it,” he said.
Kadyrov said Ukrainian cities should be “erased from the earth” in response to the shelling of territory Russia now claims as its own.
Last month, Russia illegally proclaimed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions: Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia. None of the regions are fully under the control of Russian forces, and a Ukrainian victory is anticipated in Kherson.
Ukrainian forces continue to make steady advances as part of their counteroffensive.
Putin also declared martial law in the four regions. Russian legislation states that martial law limits the rights and freedoms of citizens; introduces curfews; and restricts entry, exit and movement throughout the territories.
“We have already declared martial law…but they [Ukrainians] are not shy, they shoot…this is how we respond, in my opinion, we are responding weakly. If a shell flew in our direction, in our region, we must wipe out the cities,” Kadyrov said.
Kadyrov said that when making the decision to “wipe cities off the ground”, Putin should not worry about the reaction of the West.
Last month, Kadyrov publicly ridiculed Putin’s military amid a series of successful counteroffensives conducted by Kyiv in Ukraine’s south and northeast. He criticized the Russian Defense Ministry after Ukrainian forces took back Izyum, Kupyansk and Balakleya in the Kharkiv region, which had been seized by Putin’s forces during the war.
He also lashed out at the Defense Ministry’s leadership, saying that the Russian military “gave away several cities and villages.”
Andrey Klishas, the head of Russia’s Federation Council committee on constitutional legislation, responded to Kadyrov’s latest remarks.
“Kadyrov speaks like a real warrior. I respect it,” the official said on Telegram, also calling the conflict a “war.”
Describing the conflict that began on February 24 as a “war” in Russia is significant, given that it veers from the Kremlin line that it is a “special military operation.” Russian citizens have been convicted for referring to Putin’s assault on Ukraine as a “war” or as an “invasion” under laws passed in March to crack down on dissent.
Newsweek reached out to Russia’s Foreign Ministry for comment.