A top Russian officer has been reported killed in a Ukrainian missile strike during Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russian forces, a Russian-backed official in Ukraine has said, offering his condolences.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in a part of the southern Zaporizhia region under Moscow’s control, said on Tuesday that Russian Major-General Sergei Goryachev, Chief of Staff of Russia’s 35th Army, had been killed a day earlier on the Zaporizhia front where Ukrainian forces have been retaking some territory.
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There was no immediate confirmation of the news of Goryachev’s death from the Russian Defence Ministry.
Goryachev, 52, was a highly-decorated officer. During his career, he fought in the Second Chechen War, commanded a tank brigade, oversaw a Russian military base in Tajikistan and led Russian forces in Moldova’s breakaway pro-Russian region of Transdniestria, according to the Reuters news agency.
If confirmed, the death of Goryachev marks the first Russian senior officer killed in Ukraine in almost a year. His death was first reported by “Voenkor Z”, a Russian war correspondent and military blogger.
Rogov, writing on his official channel on the Telegram messaging application, said: “The army has lost one of its brightest and most effective military commanders, who combined the highest professionalism with personal courage. Deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and friends of the deceased!”
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with 18 prominent Russian military bloggers and war correspondents on Tuesday in a bid to bolster his narrative regarding the positive progress of the war in Ukraine.
The meeting, in which Putin said Ukraine had suffered “catastrophic” losses in its counteroffensive, comes amid “widespread discontent in the Russian information space” following drone attacks on Russian territory and border incursions by pro-Ukrainian but Russian armed groups, a leading war monitor said on Wednesday.
Russian “milbloggers” who have been more critical of Putin’s war efforts were not invited to the discussion, the Washington, DC-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in a daily briefing paper on the war in Ukraine.
“Putin is likely setting information conditions to prevent potential lines of attack against the Kremlin in the event of Russian failure” in Ukraine, the ISW said, adding that the Russian president may be aware “that committed pro-war figures” and the influence of military blogging are “his key constituency as he calls on the Russian public to prepare for a protracted war in Ukraine”.
“Putin’s engagement with these milbloggers may suggest that the Kremlin will increasingly rely on the wider ultranationalist community to maintain support for the war effort,” the ISW said.
The ISW also noted Russian reports of Major-General Goryachev’s death in the Zaporizhia region and said that his reported death means that “some Russian senior military commander officials continue to operate close to the front line and remain exposed to accurate Ukrainian strikes”.
6/ #Putin is likely continuing to publicly engage with, and platform, select pro-#Kremlin milbloggers to further leverage the community to expand his support among Russian ultranationalists. https://t.co/8JcQioF3T2 pic.twitter.com/UrMvjy7XKL
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) June 14, 2023