Debacle: Russia loses 4th general in combat, stalls at Odessa

Debacle: Russia loses 4th general in combat, stalls at Odessa
(AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)

How does a modern army lose four generals in combat in less than three weeks? If this latest report from Ukraine’s defense forces gets confirmed, Oleg Mityaev would only be the latest strategic brain drain from an invasion force that already suffers from strategic brainlessness. Mityaev was no greenhorn in combat either, unlike the troops he led:


Ukraine has killed another Russian general in a further “serious blow to the morale” of the invading forces, a government adviser said Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. Oleg Mityaev died Tuesday during the storming of Ukraine’s most devastated city, Mariupol, according to Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko — who later posted a photo of the body.

Mityaev would be at least the fourth general killed during the invasion, which Kremlin officials are reportedly calling a complete “clusterf–k.’’

Mityaev, 46, commanded the 150th Motorized Rifle Division and had fought in Syria, Gerashchenko said, saying his body was found with “the shoulder straps of a major general.”

He was “one of the most promising and iconic Russian military leaders,” claimed Gerashchenko as he celebrated “the liquidation of the general.”

Newsweek notes that Mityaev had enough combat experience to know how to get around a battlefield. He was part of the Russians’ combat operations in 2016, then took up the command of a base in Tajikistan before commanding his unit on the border of Ukraine the last two years. His death would bring the casualty rate among generals to roughly 20% of all the generals involved in the invasion, according to outside military analysts’ estimates cited by Newsweek:

Mityaev is reportedly the fourth Russian general killed by Ukrainian forces in 20 days. It is estimated that 20 generals are deployed in Ukraine to command Russian troops through the invasion.

In only one week in early March, Ukraine reported the deaths of Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky, commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division and deputy commander of the 41st Army, and Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, chief of staff of the 41st Army.

Sukhovetsky was killed by sniper fire, while Gerasimov was shot dead outside the eastern city of Kharkiv, according to Ukrainian reports. The death of Sukhovetsky was confirmed in a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 3.

Major General Andrei Kolesnikov, commander of the 29th Combined Arms Army, was killed on March 11, Ukraine said.


If true, it would confirm that Russian generals have either gone to the front of their units to get them to move, or that Russian rearguard security is atrocious. Either way, it speaks volumes about the training, logistics, and tactical deployment skills of the “modern” Russian military, and perhaps its morale as well. If generals are getting picked off by snipers because they’re up front, it likely means (as Allahpundit has suggested before) that they can’t get their units disciplined enough to function properly without direct command supervision.

If that’s the case, then the command class is essentially wiping itself out. The deaths of commanders in the field represent a critical strategic loss for any army, but especially for an army that keeps losing momentum and coordination anyway. That’s even true in the south of Ukraine, where the Russians appeared to be doing better. Instead, Ukrainian forces have stalled them at Odessa, and Mariupol appears to be still holding out:

Mykolaiv, a city of about 500,000 people on Ukraine’s Black Sea shoreline, is all that’s standing in Russia’s way of an assault on the major port city of Odessa.

But despite more than a week of heavy bombardment, Ukraine’s forces in Mykolaiv have remarkably thwarted Russian advances — a major blow to the Kremlin’s apparent plans for an attack on Odessa, an economic lifeline for Ukraine as one of the largest Black Sea ports. Though Russian warships have lingered off the coast of Odessa, local officials have said the Russians are probably delaying any amphibious assault until they can get more ground support from their forces in the east.

That is how Mykolaiv has become a crucial roadblock. The region’s governor, Vitaliy Kim, told The Washington Post on Monday that some Russian forces were beaten back from here and are currently located in Kherson, about 40 miles to the southeast. They’ve repeatedly shelled the city, including civilian residences, with suspected cluster munitions, but have been unable to move into Mykolaiv itself.

Ukraine’s stand at Mykolaiv underscores how Russia’s advance in parts of the country has stalled, making this war more of a fight than many expected. Russia has more manpower and firepower, but it has been bogged down by what U.S. officials have said was a poor military strategy and basic logistical and supply issues.


Russia can still try an amphibious assault without cover of connecting ground forces, but it would either be out of desperation or complete incompetence. They don’t have enough forces to land in self-defensive strength, and their underestimation of Ukrainain resistance would prove particularly fatal on beaches. It might turn into another Dieppe or Gallipoli, at a time when Russia’s already repeating some of the worst military blunders in history within the first three weeks of its all-out war on Ukraine.

At this point, one can see why Putin might need to declare victory and get the hell out of Ukraine, as Allahpundit noted in the latest peace proposals floating around. Color me a bit skeptical that he will follow through on such a deal, however. If Russia leaves with Zelensky still in charge and Ukraine’s military in the field bolstered by more black-letter security guarantees from the West, and without having gained an inch of territory from February 24, it will look like a total defeat — even inside Putin’s propaganda bubble. All of those Russian troops will come home at that point and start telling everyone that they didn’t see any “neo-Nazis” but a lot of dead women and children from Russian bombs and bullets. That might have been salvageable had Putin succeeded in any of his war objectives, but coming away empty-handed will make him look impotent.


Not to mention ridiculous:

And that’s a bad look for a tyrant in any country, but perhaps especially Russia. That kind of peace deal only ends up with Putin up against the wall or falling out of a window, and Putin knows it.

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Ed Morrissey 12:01 AM on September 21, 2023