Putin is believed to have taken over the running of his military campaign in Ukraine, after losing patience with his generals. A senior EU source told Mujtaba Rahman, a managing director at the Eurasia Group, that the Russian despot had “now taken day-to day-control of the conflict”. The Russian President is reported to have given his weary officers a new ambitious task that must be fulfilled before the Victory Day celebrations on May 9th.
Putin has ordered his generals to capture the city of Kryvyi Rih, the birthplace of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
If the city, Ukraine’s second-largest by area and with a population of roughly one million, should fall, it would present the Russian leader with a major propaganda victory.
However, his officers have reportedly been left in dismay at the prospect of having to seize the city.
Social media user “UOI”, a frequent commentator on events in Ukraine, wrote: “Putin is demanding that Dvornikov take Kryvyi Rih, Zelensky’s homeland, by May 9.
“We are told from communication interceptions that Russian officers are simply in shock.
“They have losses of 400 soldiers a day killed and wounded, and their equipment keeps breaking down.”
General Aleksandr Dvornikov was placed in charge of military operations in Ukraine in April after Russia’s initial invasion stalled.
The general was charged with leading a new offensive in eastern Ukraine to capture the entire Donbas region
The Russian army, though, is struggling to make any major advances in its new offensive.
The Ukrainians continue to put up fierce resistance and have succeeded in slowing the Russian advance despite their inferior numbers – both in terms of troops and equipment.
The Ukrainian army has conducted tactical retreats and carried out various counterattacks in the Kharkiv region while inflicting heavy casualties on the Russian invaders.
It comes amid reports that the head of Russia’s army narrowly escaped death on Saturday after coming under artillery fire near the city of Izyum.
General Valery Gerasimov had travelled to Ukraine earlier last week to take over command of the Izyum axis, as Russian forces seek to push south towards Slovyansk.
Ukrainian artillery targeted the Russian headquarters in the Izyum area and succeeded in killing several officers, among them General Andrey Simonov, a commander of electronic warfare forces of the West district.
However, Gerasimov escaped with light injuries to his leg, according to Arsen Avakov – a former minister of Internal Affairs.
Victor Kovalenko, an army veteran officer, tweeted: “Yesterday’s Ukraine attack on the Rus. HQ in Izium was designed to liquidate the high-value target – chief of Gen. Staff of RAF Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov.
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“The Kremlin sent him to get a victory for the May 9 parade. Gerasimov was close to the blast but wounded.
“Gen. Gerasimov suffered a minor shrapnel wound to his right shin without breaking a bone.”
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs, also said: “We received confirmation of yesterday’s explosion in Izium (Eastern Ukraine) near the Russian headquarters.
“It is known that Russian Head of General Staff Gerasimov was there to lead the attack on Sloviansk.
“A large number of casualties among senior Russian officers has been confirmed.”