The chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, has been suspended amid the faltering Kremlin invasion, a senior Ukrainian official has claimed.
Oleksiy Arestovych, a military adviser to the Ukrainian president, said “preliminary information” indicated General Gerasimov had been removed from office while Vladimir Putin and his inner circle assessed whether he should be allowed to remain in the country’s armed forces. lead.
There has been no official confirmation of the reported resignation, although speculation about a purge of senior military commanders mounted after General Gerasimov was absent from Russia’s annual Victory Day parade on Monday.
The Russian armed forces have suffered several major setbacks in their war, failing to capture Kiev at an early stage and suffering heavy losses in both life and equipment.
In the wake of their failure to capture the capital, Russian forces withdrew and regrouped — shifting their focus to Ukraine’s eastern Donbas, a region where Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for eight years.
But Russia’s advance there has also been slow, and Western officials say Russia has failed to take cities.
One of the most dramatic examples of Ukraine’s ability to prevent easy victories is in Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters holed up in a steel mill have denied Russia complete control of the city.
A lack of Russian gains has led to speculation that Mr Putin is planning a purge of military leaders blamed for the failures.
According to reports, a Telegram channel of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry had claimed that two more commanders had been fired for losses on the battlefield.
The Telegram feed claimed that the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Igor Osipov, had been removed from office and arrested, while the commander of the 6th Army, Lieutenant General Vladislav Ershov, was reportedly 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.
Ben Wallace, Britain’s defense secretary, said last week that Russian military leaders were “terrified that they were about to be purged and expelled”.
“Be careful if you are the only one controlling anything in the Russian system because it can’t be long,” said Mr Wallace.
“There is a field of tension in the system. As much as they respect the former KGB man [Mr Putin] because he is a strong leader, the Russian General Staff will be made a scapegoat for his mess.”