Viktor Zolotov, the head of Russia’s National Guard, said on Sunday that his country’s military attack in Ukraine is going slower than expected, according to Reuters.

“I would like to say that yes, not everything is going as fast as we would like,” Zolotov said at a church service led by Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in remarks posted on the National Guard’s website.

As a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zolotov is the most prominent official from the country to contradict the messaging coming from the Kremlin about the operation since attack began on February 24.

As recently as Friday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin during a televised Security Council Meeting that “everything is going according to plan.”

The National Guard is an internal military force of the Russian Federation that works as an independent agency reporting directly to the president. Troops from the National Guard are currently in Ukraine.

Prior to his appointment as the director of the force, Zolotov was the commander of Russian Interior Troops and the one-time head of Putin’s personal security force. He has also long been considered to be a member of Putin’s inner circle.

During his talk at the Sunday church service, Zolotov attributed Russia not meeting its immediate goals to Ukrainian forces using civilians as shields. Other Russian authorities and the country’s state-run media have previously made the same claim.

“…But we are going towards our goal step by step and victory will be for us, and this icon will protect the Russian army and accelerate our victory,” Zolotov said, Reuters reported.

On Friday, Shoigu claimed that not only had Russia’s plan been executed as expected, but they received more than 16,000 applications from volunteers in the Middle East who wanted to join the attack on Ukraine.

Shoigu also claimed that Russian forces had seized a large number of Ukrainian weapons, including tanks and a substantial amount of artillery.

Ukraine’s government has mostly painted a different picture. While the country has been hit hard, authorities have reported on social media about the capture of a number of Russian weapons and vehicles. Many Western media outlets have also characterized the Russian invasion as not meeting the Kremlin’s expectations.

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