Ukraine War: Fourth Russian general killed – Zelensky
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr
Zelensky says another Russian general has been killed during fighting.
He didn’t name the officer, but an
adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry said Maj Gen Oleg Mityaev had been
killed by the far-right Azov Battalion.
Gen Mityaev was killed near
Mariupol, Ukrainian media said.
He is the fourth general reportedly
killed, leading some to ask why such senior members of the Russian military are
so close to the front line.
Analysts believe that around 20
generals are leading Russian operations in Ukraine, meaning that if all the
reported deaths are confirmed, one fifth of Russia’s generals have been killed
With such high losses, some experts
believe that the generals have not simply been in the wrong place at the wrong
time, but that Ukraine is likely to be targeting top-level Russian officers.
“I don’t think this is an accident.
One is an accident, but this many is targeted”, Rita Konaev of Georgetown
University told the BBC.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, a person
within President Zelensky’s inner circle said Ukraine had a military
intelligence team dedicated to targeting Russia’s officer class.
“They look for high profile
generals, pilots, artillery commanders,” the person told the newspaper.
With Ukraine’s military outnumbered,
its targeting of high-level individuals could be an important part of the
information war, according to Ms Konaev.
“Assuming there is an element of
targeting, this feeds Ukraine’s own morale. There is the element of being
victorious. It is inspiring.”
For Ukraine to target specific
Russian officers, it needs to know where they are. Analysts say that Russia has
been using open channels of communications which could give clues about where
certain targets are located.
“If the Russians are using mobile
phones or analogue radios to communicate with senior officers, the Ukrainians
have everything on their plate,” defence analyst Konrad Muzyka of Rochan
Consulting told the BBC.
After the death of another senior
officer – Maj Gen Vitaly Gerasimov – Ukraine released a recording purporting to
be two Russian security officers discussing the general’s death, and
complaining that their secure communications network was not working.
the front lines
It is unusual for such high-ranking
officers to put themselves in danger by getting so close to the battlefield,
and western sources believe that they have done so in order to get some control
over operations which have, in some areas, badly stalled.
Russia’s military is also
traditionally top-heavy, with officers often conducting day-to-day activities,
says Mr Muzyka. Although this is starting to change, it could explain why
generals felt the need to direct operations from the front.
“In recent years there’s been a big
shift to force battalion commanders to think independently in a way that would
give them freedom to make decisions”, Mr Muzyka said. “But this was introduced
only three years ago, so maybe it didn’t properly have an effect yet on their
The details of the generals’ deaths
are unclear, and getting solid facts from the ground is difficult. There has
been an assumption that they were all caught up in fighting on the front line,
but that is not necessarily the case, says Ms Konaev.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean the
generals were at the front line. They could have been in transit or inspecting
resupply lines for example,” she told the BBC.
Maj Gen Oleg Mityaev reportedly died
somewhere near the city of Mariupol, a city in south-east Ukraine which has
seen some of the heaviest fighting so far.
The far-right Azov Battalion, claims
to have killed him.
He was a commander of the Russian
army’s 150th motorised rifle division, a relatively new unit formed in 2016,
and based in the Rostov region close to the Ukrainian border.
claims that the unit was created in order to take part in the
conflict in separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, although Russia
denies that its military was involved in fighting there.
Maj Gen Andrei Kolesnikov, of the 29th
combined army, was killed in fighting on March 11, according to official
The circumstances of his death were not
After Kolesnikov became the third Russian
general reportedly killed in Ukraine, one western official told the Press
Association that the Russian army may be suffering from low morale, which is
why high-ranking military officers are moving closer to the front line.
Maj Gen Vitaly Gerasimov, chief of staff of
Russia’s 41st combined army, was killed on 7 March outside the eastern city of
Kharkiv, according to Ukraine’s defence ministry.
Kharkiv, close to the Russian border, has
come under sustained attack from Russian forces.
Ukraine’s military released a recording of
what it said was two Russian security service officials discussing Gerasimov’s
death, and complaining that their secure communication networks no longer
worked in Ukraine.
Gerasimov was involved in the second Chechen
war, the Russian military operation in Syria, and in the Russian annexation of
Crimea in 2014.
Maj Gen Andrey Sukhovetsky, a deputy
commander at the same unit as Gerasimov, was reportedly killed by a sniper on 3
Like Gerasimov, Sukhovetsky was part of
Russia’s military operations in Crimea and in Syria.
Unlike the other generals, Sukhovetsky’s
death was reported in the Russian media and Russian President Vladimir Putin
confirmed in a speech that a general had died in Ukraine.