Russia’s recent losses on the frontline in Ukraine have left the minister put in charge of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion stumped.
Defence minister Sergei Shoigu looked less than confident about the outcome of the war as Ukrainian troops regained further territory on the eastern and southern fronts in the past week of their counteroffensive.
Footage shared widely on social media shows the politician being interviewed by a leading propagandist whether Russia would win.
He is asked by Russian state TV anchor and pro-Putin MP Yevgeny Popov: ‘Will we win?’
In a sing of his nervousness, Shoigu just shrugged and told the camera: ‘We have no other options.’
Initially, the clip was shared edited – without his answer – implying he has run out of options on the battlefield in Ukraine.
But even asking the question on Russian state TV suggests a lack of confidence inside the Putin machine over the war outcome.
Shoigu was speaking after a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un amid a rumoured arms deal between the two countries.
Ukraine has not only gained territory in recent weeks, but is increasingly hitting Russia behind the frontline.
This week a £250 million submarine – the Rostov-on-Don – was destroyed by a Storm Shadow missile.
A large landing ship was also rendered inoperable in the same attack on the port of Sevastopol in annexed Crimea.
Shoigu told Popov: ‘We have been through the spring and summer campaign and are now in the autumn campaign.’
His analysis for state TV offered no hint of Russian gains, but he stressed without giving evidence: ‘We are continuing to destroy Ukrainian military equipment and personnel.’
He added: ‘Our troops are engaged in staying in defence in relevant areas. It is harder to do in some areas, and easier in the others.”
Shoigu claimed Russian commanders are ‘acting with confidence, defending what we have to defend in the areas Ukrainian armed forces are trying to break through’.
He stressed: ‘Our key task is to destroy their equipment.’
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