September 23, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Amy Woodyatt, Christian Edwards, Hannah Strange, Aditi Sangal and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 9:32 p.m. ET, September 23, 2022
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12:06 a.m. ET, September 23, 2022

Russia's military divided as Putin struggles to deal with Ukraine's counter-offensive, US sources say

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis

Russia's military is divided over how best to counter Ukraine's unexpected battlefield advances this month, according to multiple sources familiar with US intelligence, as Moscow has found itself on the defensive in both the east and the south.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is himself giving directions directly to generals in the field, two sources familiar with US and western intelligence said-- a highly unusual management tactic in a modern military that these sources said hints at the dysfunctional command structure that has plagued Russia's war from the beginning.

Intelligence intercepts have captured Russian officers arguing among themselves and complaining to friends and relatives back home about decision-making from Moscow, one of these sources told CNN. 

And there are significant disagreements on strategy with military leaders struggling to agree on where to focus their efforts to shore up defensive lines, multiple sources familiar with US intelligence said.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed that it is redeploying forces toward Kharkiv in the northeast -- where Ukraine has made the most dramatic gains -- but US and western sources say the bulk of Russian troops still remain in the south, where Ukraine has also mounted offensive operations around Kherson.

Some background: Putin announced a partial mobilization on Wednesday that is expected to include the call-up of up to 300,000 reservists. He has for months resisted taking that step and Biden administration officials said Wednesday that the fact he has moved to do so now highlights the severity of Russia's manpower shortages and signals a growing desperation. 

It's not clear that the mobilization will make any operational difference on the battlefield, or merely prolong the length of the war without changing the outcome, according to Russian military analysts.