In the midst of the escalating Russia-Ukraine war, the frontlines are engulfed in chaos, posing a growing threat to Russia itself. Vladimir Saldo, the Kremlin-appointed “governor” of the flooded Kherson region, attempted to portray a sense of calm in the ravaged towns and villages. However, the reality on the ground told a different story.
As floodwaters submerged the town center of Nova Kakhovka, Saldo, clad in camouflage, insisted that the city was functioning normally. Yet, the dire situation unfolded before his eyes: people stranded on rooftops, pleading for rescue, and entire towns washed away downstream. Disturbingly, reports emerged of Russian troops erecting checkpoints to block access to frontline towns as the floodwaters continued to rise.
Residents of Nova Kakhova, left to fend for themselves, sought ways to escape the city as no organized evacuation was in place. Meanwhile, signs of Russian vulnerability emerged as Ukrainian-backed insurgent groups carried out cross-border raids in the Belgorod border region. These paramilitary forces, including Russians with far-right affiliations, managed to capture and hold territory within Russian borders.
Shebekino, a Russian town near the border, faced heavy shelling and widespread destruction, forcing the majority of its residents to flee. The lack of soldiers, infrastructure, and basic necessities, such as water and electricity, exacerbated the plight of those remaining. Novaya Tavolzhanka, one of the largest villages in the region, even fell under the control of an anti-Kremlin militia, further highlighting Russia’s vulnerabilities along the border.
The situation in Shebekino mirrored that of frontline towns in Russian-occupied Ukraine, bringing the war closer to home for the Russian population. Evacuation efforts were hindered by the absence of assistance from authorities, leaving residents to fend for themselves.
In response to the mounting tensions, propaganda efforts were deployed to pacify the population, dismissing cross-border raids as mere “information attacks” aimed at spreading panic. However, locals, desperate for protection, began calling for the intervention of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Putin-connected figure known for his involvement in the war.
Prigozhin, openly critical of the military leadership, expressed his willingness to defend Russian territory and its people if the Ministry of Defense failed to address the situation. A rift within Russia’s war machine was evident as Wagner troops clashed with a Russian officer, highlighting internal divisions.
With Wagner’s withdrawal from Bakhmut, regular troops are left to guard the frontlines, anticipating Ukraine’s imminent counteroffensive. This test will expose the Russian army’s true capabilities, as they can no longer rely on Wagner’s support.
The escalating war threatens to disrupt the fragile balance within Russia, as mismanagement, infighting, and disregard for the situation jeopardize the nation’s security. The people yearn for a leader to emerge, someone like Prigozhin, whom they perceive as their savior in this time of crisis.