Now we know: Even in a country as tightly controlled as Russia, a string of military defeats will be followed by public squabbling and personal attacks.

But then again, perhaps Russia is less tightly controlled as a battlefield loser than as the fearsome, almost unbeatable military superpower it was before invading Ukraine. As he prepares to celebrate his 70th birthday on Oct. 7, Vladimir Putin should start worrying about his continued ascendancy.

After previous setbacks, the Russian far right had already criticized the military top brass, especially Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is not an ethnic Russian and thus an easy target for the ultranationalists. But last week, when Russia lost the important town of Lyman in the Donetsk region hours after declaring it, and the rest of occupied Ukraine, part of its territory, the accusations rose to a new level.