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Why Russian Generals Keep Getting Assassinated in Ukraine

Russian President Putin testing a new sniper rifle. Image Credit: Russian State Media.
Russian President Putin testing a new sniper rifle. Image Credit: Russian State Media.

Fourth Russian General Killed in Ukraine – Highest Loss of High-Ranking Officers Since World War II – During the Second World War, known to the Russians as the Great Patriotic War – a total of 416 general officers serving in the Soviet Armed Forces were killed. While that number may seem shockingly high, especially considering that the United States military lost around 40 generals in the conflict, it should be remembered that more than 27 million Soviet citizens – civilian and military – may have been killed during the war.

When put in perspective, the number of command-level officers killed in relation to total losses is minuscule.

By contrast, in just over three weeks of fighting, four general officers have been killed in Ukraine out of some 7,000 Russian troops who have been killed. That equates to one general for every 1,750 soldiers of all other ranks.

Loss of Leadership

Moreover, it hasn’t just been the generals who have been taken out, and at least six colonels have also been killed since the fighting began.

Simply put, Russia is losing its military leaders in Ukraine at an astonishing rate. Troops and equipment are difficult enough for any military to replace, but command leadership is something that takes time to train. These were experienced men, and all were reportedly command veterans, so their loss should be seen as a devastating blow to Russia’s war effort.

The latest Russian general officer to be killed in the Ukrainian war was Major General Oleg Mityaev. The 48-year old commander of Russia’s 150th Motorized Rifle Division was reportedly killed while taking part in the Siege of Mariupol.

The other Russian generals who have been killed include Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, Maj. Gen. Andrey Kolesnikov, Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov. Western sources have reported that 20 major generals had been deployed to Ukraine – and with Mityaev’s death, one-fifth have now been killed.

Generals in the Crosshairs

The loss of these high-ranking officers wasn’t the result of well-trained snipers hunting behind the lines or elite commando raids either. While Sukhovetsky was, in fact, killed by a sniper, he was reported to have been shot dead near the frontlines outside the eastern city of Kharkiv.

Another of the generals was reported to have been killed after he used an unsecured line to communicate, and Ukrainian forces were able to work out his location. In all of these recent cases, it seemed that the generals were too close to the fighting.

As Business Insider reported, an undisclosed western official explained, “because things are going badly (Russian generals) have to go closer to the front to guide their troops in operations. They need to provide more close-up supervision, going further forward and becoming vulnerable to enemy action.”

The situation won’t be better for their replacements, who will almost certainly need to also see for themselves what the Russian troops are facing at the frontlines and thus expose themselves to enemy fire.

Chechen General Among Mounting Casualties

In addition to the four Russian general officers killed, Chechen sub-warlord and General Magomed Tushaev, head of the 141st motorized regiment of the Chechen National Guard, was killed during a Ukrainian attack on a 56-vehicle convoy near Hostomel in the opening days of the conflict. Tushaev apparently had been recruited with the task of assassinating President Zelensky, his family, and other members of the Ukrainian government.

In total, the Russian losses of 7,000 soldiers, already exceeds the number of U.S. military personnel killed in two decades of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. At this point, even if Russia can actually defeat Ukraine, it will be a Pyrrhic victory at best.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.