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Rumors That Putin’s Top General Was Killed Are Dismissed By ‘Those Who Know’

Ukrainian Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk said on Thursday that the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) had carried out two missile strikes against Russian targets in Crimea; a command post, near Sevastopol, was hit at about 3 p.m. and a military unit, believed to be a radar station in Uyutne, near the city of Yevpatoria in the evening.

Oleshchuk thanked the pilots and “everyone who planned the operation for perfect combat work.” The wording of his Telegram post suggested the attacks had likely involved Anglo-French Storm Shadow/SCALP cruise missiles.

A spokesperson for the Russian-appointed authorities in Crimea said its air defenses had intercepted ten missiles and 36 drones during the course of what they called a Ukrainian “terrorist attack” and that only fragments of destroyed projectile fell at the two locations.

However, within a couple of hours of the strike on the command post social media suggested that more than 20 soldiers and several senior Russian officers had been killed.

BREAKING:23 Russian soldiers killed in yesterday’s Ukrainian missile strike against the Russian airbase in Saky, Crimea.

9 of them special forces, 5 high-ranking commanders.

— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) January 5, 2024

This claim was expanded upon shortly thereafter with suggestions that one of those killed had been Russia’s Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov who had been made overall commander of Russia’s “special military operation” last January. Firstly, this appeared on the X (formerly Twitter) account of a user called “WarVehicleTracker” quoting Russian Telegram channel “Ordinary Tsarism.”

Ukraine Strikes Russian Command Post and Military Unit in Crimea

Explosions and air raid sirens were heard in Crimea on Thursday afternoon, and again in the evening.

Gerasimov died?
(Please let it be true, The last competent Russian dying after Surovikin got canceled out🙏)

— WarVehicleTracker (@WarVehicle) January 4, 2024

It was very quickly picked up by other Ukrainian and Russian social media sites and even the US main stream news outlet Newsweek ran the story, though it was at pains to point out that there was no concrete evidence to suggest that Gerasimov had been killed, or even that he was actually in Crimea at the time of the attack.

While the rumors of Gerasimov’s demise continued to circulate on Friday, the “Insider Ukraine” Telegram channel said in the early afternoon that “media information about the command post in Crimea being hit was true but that the death of the head of the General Staff is 99 percent fake.”

Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Volunteer Army South speaking during an interview with the “Espresso” TV channel on Friday seemed to endorse this view:

“Yesterday in Crimea, an enemy command post was hit” in which there were “several high-ranking officers or generals of the Russian occupation army.” He added “I even heard the famous name Gerasimov. It would be good news, but I think it is unlikely to be true.”

Bratchuk also confirmed the strike on the air defense communication site in Uyutne in south west Crimea, after which he asserted that many ambulances were called to deal with casualties.

The Russian news agency TASS, quoting the New York Times, said on Dec. 17 that Ukraine had allegedly made a failed attempt to assassinate Gerasimov during a visit to the front lines. It went on to say that the attempt had failed because it had been made against Washington’s wishes who in turn withheld the information on the Russian’s movements that were essential to a successful attack.

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Steve Brown

Steve Brown

After a career as a British Army Ammunition Specialist and Bomb Disposal Officer, Steve later worked in the fields of ammunition destruction, demining and explosive ordnance disposal with the UN and NATO. In 2017, after taking early retirement, he moved to Ukraine with his Ukrainian wife and two sons where he became a full-time writer. He now works as an English language editor with the Kyiv Post.

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