Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday addressed his new Government Coordination Council to hasten the country’s war efforts in Ukraine, alluding to the coronavirus pandemic as one reason to accelerate decision-making.
The Kremlin announced the council’s creation on Friday, saying it would improve coordination within Russia’s government as the country continues to face territorial losses in its invasion from a Ukrainian southern offensive.
“We faced certain difficulties and the need to upgrade our work, give it a new momentum and new character when we were responding to the coronavirus pandemic,” Putin told the group, according to remarks released by the Kremlin.
“We managed to do much then to update these regulations and get rid of the archaic procedures that are preventing us from moving forward at the pace the country needs,” he added.
Putin said the group, which is headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, includes deputy prime ministers, agency heads and regional representatives.
The body will look to more effectively provide medicine and equipment to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow dubs a “special military operation,” although Putin did not explain in detail how these objectives would be accomplished.
“If we follow standard bureaucratic procedures and hide behind formalities, we will not achieve the desired result in any area,” he said. “We established a mechanism like the Coordination Council with the express purpose of resolving all issues faster and more effectively.”
Putin initially hoped to quickly force Ukraine’s surrender when it invaded the country in February, but Russian forces have seen a series of setbacks, first failing to take the capital city of Kyiv and now facing losses in territory captured in the spring.
Various U.S. and Western officials have indicated Russia has faced a variety of tactical and equipment failures during the invasion, and President Biden has said Putin “totally miscalculated.”
The efforts of Putin’s new coordinating group will look to counter gains made by a Ukrainian offensive previously focused in the country’s northeast that has now extended to the south.
As Russian forces retreat from an increasing number of settlements and towns, Putin has escalated the conflict by calling up to 300,000 reservists, threatening the use of nuclear weapons and annexing four Ukrainian regions.
Last week, Putin declared martial law in the four regions, which experts say could mean mass deportations of Ukrainians out of the Russian-occupied territory as Kyiv’s forces inch closer to Kherson, the sole regional capital controlled by Moscow.
Russia has also accused Ukraine of producing biological weapons and planning to use a radioactive “dirty bomb,” claims that have been condemned as Russian propoganda by U.S. officials.
Ukraine has cited those claims as evidence Russia itself is planning to stage a major attack in Ukraine, referencing purported evidence of planted mines at a major dam and Putin’s past threats of nuclear warfare.