As we approach two full weeks since the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, reports out of the embattled nation indicate a second Russian general has been killed in the fighting.
According to an official statement from the Chief Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine’s defense ministry, Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, first deputy commander of Russia’s 41st army, was killed in combat on Monday.
“Another loss among the senior command staff of the occupying army. During the fighting near Kharkiv, Vitaly Gerasimov, a Russian military leader, major general, chief of staff and first deputy commander of the 41st Army of the Central Military District of Russia, was killed. A number of senior Russian army officers were also killed and wounded,” the official statement read.
Russian officials have not publicly acknowledged Gerasimov’s death, but Netherlands-based fact-checking organization Bellingcat reports that they were able to confirm the death of a second “flag officer” (a common term used to describe general or admiral-level military officials) in Ukraine.
Russia’s 41st Army’s deputy commander, General Andrei Sukhovetsky was reportedly killed in action last week. General Magomed Tushayev, a Chechnyan general serving Russia and its embattled leader Vladimir Putin was also reportedly killed in action.
Killed Russian generals may be the least of Russia’s worries
In Ukraine’s statement regarding the death of Gerasimov, they also indicated the capture of sensitive Russian military information and communications issues within Russian forces.
“The data obtained also indicate significant problems with communication in the occupier’s army and with the evacuation of their broken units,” the statement reads.
Alongside this announcement, Ukrainian officials released audio files of a telephone conversation that was reportedly recorded between a Russian FSB officer (the FSB is the spiritual successor to the KGB and could be compared in some ways to America’s CIA) and Dmitry Shevchenko, a senior FSB officer from Tula.
The first FSB officer can be heard complaining about disarray within the Russian military and a lack of secure communications over the telephone. This conversation has been published and analyzed to some extent by Bellingcat.
“In the phone call in which the FSB officer assigned to the 41st Army reports the death to his boss in Tula, he says they’ve lost all secure communications. Thus the phone call using a local sim card. Thus the intercept,” Christo Grozev, Bellingcat’s executive director, said on Twitter.
“His boss, who makes a looong pause when he hears the news of Gerassimov’s death (before swearing), is Dmitry Shevchenko, a senior FSB officer from Tula. We identified him by searching for his phone (published by Ukrainian military Intel) in open source lookup apps… In the call, you hear the Ukraine-based FSB officer ask his boss if he can talk via the secure Era system. The boss says Era is not working.”
The Era system is Russia’s much-touted secure cryptophone communications system, which Russia claimed could function in heavily denied regions. However, it appears the destruction of 3G and 4G cell phone towers may be limiting the system’s ability to function, Grozev postulates.