Russian Court denies release for General Popov who criticized Ukraine War effort

The court rejected a request to transfer Gen. Ivan Popov to house arrest and ruled the ex-commander of Russia’s 58th army should remain in pretrial detention, according to media reports from the courtroom.

A Russian military court on Monday refused to release a former commander who was fired and arrested after publicly criticizing the handling of the war in Ukraine, deciding to keep him in custody on fraud charges.

The court rejected a request to transfer Gen. Ivan Popov to house arrest and ruled the ex-commander of Russia’s 58th army should remain in pretrial detention, according to media reports from the courtroom.

Popov was arrested in March on suspicion of fraudulently procuring over 130 million rubles ($1.44 million) worth of railroad metal products meant for fortifying defences along the frontline in Ukraine.

But Popov’s case gained particular prominence after he spoke out about the struggles faced by Russian forces following the aborted mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group. Popov said he was dismissed for telling top brass about the dire combat situation and poor leadership hampering Russia’s operations.

The outspoken criticism made Popov a celebrated figure among hawkish pro-war voices and military bloggers, who portrayed him as a truth-telling patriot being punished for candour. Videos from the courtroom on Monday showed Popov smiling after being ordered back to pretrial detention.

Popov, whose call sign was “Spartacus,” was regarded as a charismatic leader popular among his troops in Ukraine. The case against him has been viewed as potential retaliation for raising concerns over Russia’s faltering offensive.

While not unprecedented for top officers to face disciplinary action amid the war, Popov’s prosecution is characteristic of the shroud of secrecy and paranoia around perceived dissent plaguing Moscow’s campaign.

The Russian military’s top brass has faced withering criticism from hawkish circles over its performance in Ukraine, with hardliners arguing the war effort has been hobbled by incompetent leadership reluctant to commit the resources needed for victory.