Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov commanded Russia's troops in the southern Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, leading the 58th Combined Armed Army.
In an audio message apparently intended for his soldiers but posted to Telegram on Wednesday by Andrey Gurulev, a politician and a former deputy commander of Russia’s Southern Military Command, Popov appears to say he was removed from his post for speaking the truth.
“I called things by their proper name, focused on the most important thing — the tragedy of the modern war. This is the absence of counter-battery combat, reconnaissance and the massive injuries of our brothers from enemy artillery,” Popov said, according to the audio clip.
Gurulev, a member of United Russia, the largest party in Russia, did not say how he obtained the recording. NBC News has not been able to independently confirm that the audio features Popov.
According to the audio, Popov said commanders across the regiment reported that Ukrainian troops could not get through Russian front lines until an unspecified intervention from a senior military leader compromised their positions.
"We were hit from the rear by our senior commander, treacherously and villainously beheading the army in the most difficult and tense moment," he said, according to the audio.
It is not clear what incident that referred to.
According to the audio, Popov expressed his gratitude and support to his soldiers, whom he called gladiators because of his "Spartak," or Spartacus, call sign.
"In your name and in the name of all of our fallen brothers in arms, I had no right to lie. Therefore, I’ve outlined all the troubling issues that exist today in the army in terms of combat work and support," he said, according to the audio.
Andrey Turchak, a Russian senator and deputy speaker of the Russian Federation Council, said Thursday the audio was an internal message intended for the 58th Army only.
“The fact that ‘MP’ Gurulev somehow got it and made a political show out of it should stay on his conscience. Same as his other statements and comments,” Turchak said on Telegram.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner private military group, which led last month’s aborted mutiny, had long complained that the country’s top military brass, namely Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, did not supply his troops with enough ammunition or provisions to take territory in eastern Ukraine.
Popov’s apparent statement adds to speculation of widespread dissatisfaction with the leadership among Russia’s military forces.
The Defense Ministry has been asked for comment.