Fourth Russian general killed during fighting: President Volodymyr 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 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.

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 in action.

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.

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.”

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 performance”.