Several British news sources reported Friday, March 11, that Ukrainian forces had killed a third Russian general officer in the fighting in Ukraine.
The Guardian and a reporter from The Times of London along with the BBC all reported that a “Western official” confirmed that a Russian general had been killed in fighting; he would be the third Russian general killed in eight days. Those reports match a claim made on Twitter Friday morning by the Ukrainian military that its troops had killed Maj. Gen. Andrei Kolesnikov.
The tweet reads, per Twitter’s translation: “The Russian occupiers continue to lose their officers in the war against Ukraine. The Armed Forces managed to eliminate Major General Andriy Kolesnikov, the commander of the Eastern Military District.”
Російські окупанти продовжують втрачати у війні проти України своїх офіцерів. ЗСУ вдалося ліквідувати генерал-майора Андрія Колеснікова, командувача Східного військового округу. pic.twitter.com/CEBDneqslz
— 🇺🇦Armed Forces (@ArmedForcesUkr) March 11, 2022
The tweet appears to overstate Kolesnikov’s position. The Eastern Military District is a major command — on par with a US major command like the US Central Command — that would be led by a three- or four-star general. A cached copy of a Russian military website says the current commander is three-star Col. Gen. Alexander Chaiko (the Russian military ranks for general officers are, from one to four stars, major general, lieutenant general, colonel general, and general).
Instead, several sources, including other Ukrainian officials ,peg Kolesnikov as the commander of the 29th Combined Arms Army, a brigade-sized unit within the Eastern District that includes infantry, artillery elements, and anti-aircraft batteries. Units in the Eastern Military District are based around Khazakstan, Mongolia, and China, but elements of the 29th Army were known to be in Belarus prior to the invasion.
Photos of Eastern Military District Commander Colonel-General Alexander Chayko and VDV Commander Colonel-General Andrey Serdyukov in Belarus as part of the Allied Resolve exercise with Belarusian Minister of Defense Khrenin. https://t.co/P5dsPclBsjhttps://t.co/PLLv9CU0G9 pic.twitter.com/0Dj3KNlPWD
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) February 21, 2022
If the reports are true, Kolesnikov would join Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky and Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov as Russian generals killed in just over a week in Ukraine. Sukhovetsky and Gerasimov were both members of the command staff of the 41st Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District.
A Ukrainian sniper reportedly killed Sukhovetsky, the 41st’s deputy commander, on March 3 as the general arrived at a contested airport near Kyiv. Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed his death in a speech.
Four days later, Ukrainian intelligence claimed that Gerasimov had been killed in fighting near Kharkiv, one of the closest cities in the country to the northern Russian border and the scene of heavy fighting since the invasion’s early days. Gerasimov appears to have led troops in the 2014 invasion of Crimea.
General officers are rarely killed in direct combat. The last American general to have been killed in combat was Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene on Aug. 5, 2014, at Camp Qargha in Kabul, Afghanistan. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was the highest-ranking American service member to have been killed by hostile action since Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude was killed on 9/11 at the Pentagon, and Greene was the highest-ranking service member killed on foreign soil since Rear Adm. Rembrandt C. Robinson, who was killed in a helicopter crash in May 1972 during the Vietnam War.