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Russian military leaders ‘sacked and arrested’ amid heavy battlefield losses

By Tom Batchelor
Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Chief of the Russian general staff, Valery Gerasimov, has been suspended amid the Kremlin’s faltering invasion, a senior Ukrainian official has claimed.

Oleksiy Arestovych, a military adviser to Ukraine's president, said “preliminary information” suggested Gen Gerasimov had been removed from his post while Vladimir Putin and his inner circle assessed whether he should be allowed to continue to lead the country’s armed forces.

There has been no official confirmation of the reported sacking, although speculation about a purge of senior military commanders increased after Gen Gerasimov was absent from Russia’s annual Victory Day parade on Monday.

Russian armed forces have suffered several major setbacks in their war, failing to take Kyiv early on and enduring heavy losses – both in lives and equipment.

In the wake of their failure to seize the capital, Russian forces pulled back and regrouped – and switched their focus to Ukraine's eastern Donbas, a region where Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian troops for eight years.

But Russia's advance there has been slow, too, and Western officials say Russia has not managed to take any cities.

One of the most dramatic examples of Ukraine's ability to prevent easy victories is in Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters holed up at a steel plant have denied Russia full control of the city.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) and chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov attend a meeting with Russian President in Moscow on 27 February (Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

A lack of Russian gains has led to speculation that Mr Putin is planning a purge of military leaders who are being blamed for the failures.

Reports said a Telegram channel run by the Ukrainian interior ministry had claimed that two more commanders had been sacked due to battlefield losses.

The Telegram feed alleged that the Commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Igor Osipov, had been removed from his post and arrested, while the Commander of the 6th Army, Lieutenant General Vladislav Ershov, had reportedly been fired, along with the commander of the tank army of the western military district, Lieutenant General Sergei Kisel and one of the deputy commanders, [and] Commander of the 22nd Army Corps of the Southern Military District, Major General Arkady Marzoev.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has not achieved the quick victory many believed he was expecting (EPA)

Ben Wallace, the British defence secretary, said last week that Russian military chiefs were “terrified they are about to be purged and pushed out”.

“Be careful if you’re out in sole command of something in the Russian system, because it may not be for long,” Mr Wallace said.

“There is a point of tension in the system. As much as they respect the former KGB man [Mr Putin] for being a strong leader, the Russian general staff are going to be made scapegoats for his mess.”

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Dive Deeper:
Russian ship ‘on fire in Black Sea after Ukrainian strike’
A Russian logistics ship caught fire after after being struck in the Black Sea, forcing it to return to port,…
Furious Putin orders 'purge' of Russian commanders after Ukraine invasion failure
According to Ukrainian government sources Putin has purged the head of his army and fired a number of top commanders…
Vladimir Putin loses ANOTHER colonel in huge blow to war effort in Ukraine
Lt Col Albert Karimov, 39, has become the 41st Russian colonel to die in the war in Ukraine, meaning the…
US, Russian defense chiefs speak for 1st time since invasion
After rebuffing U.S. requests for months, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Vladimir Putin has ‘lost control of narrative’ in Ukraine information war, say Western officials
Mr Putin’s army is believed to have lost at least 15,000 troops since the invasion began on February 24
Trudy Rubin: Putin’s Victory Day speech shows how Russia can be defeated — and how Ukraine can win
When Vladimir Putin stood on a Red Square podium Monday, at the annual celebration of the Soviet victory in World…
Get all your news in one place