Is This How Ukraine Is Successfully Targeting Russia's Top Generals?

On February 24, 2022, Russian troops invaded Ukraine on the orders of President Vladimir Putin, who launched what he referred to as a "special military operation," (via Vox). The BBC writes that Putin said he intended to rid the country of Nazis. As he explained, Ukraine had become a threat to Russia, and tensions between the two nations had reached a boiling point. In 1991, Ukraine became a sovereign state after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and since then it has continued to transform into a country that adheres to Western values and democracy (per Reuters).

This of course is a threat to Putin's authoritarian power for a slew of reasons. Insider reports that when he invaded Ukraine, he believed that the city of Kyiv would fall in two days. However, nearly a month after the invasion, the city had yet to be captured. What Putin imagined would be a speedy victory, turned into a full-blown war. CNBC reports that 10 million Ukrainians have abandoned their homes. In addition, it's estimated that 14,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the conflict, plus Russia also allegedy lost its top military leaders in a matter of weeks, according to Newsweek.

Ukraine has reportedly killed multiple Russian generals

By March 19, 2022, five Russian generals were claimed to have been killed by Ukrainian forces, as Newsweek reports. Allegedly, this is the highest number since World War II (per 19FortyFive). Beyond this, Russia has also allegedly lost several of its high-ranking senior military officials (via Insider). It's also believed that Russia had 20 generals leading the Ukrainian invasion, which means they reportedly lost a quarter of their generals just weeks into the conflict (per BBC). This is not a coincidence; Ukraine is largely outnumbered by Russian troops, and so is focused on targeting its military leaders. One person close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained, "They look for high profile generals, pilots, artillery commanders."

According to Ukrainian officials, the generals that have reportedly died so far include Oleg Mityaev, Andrei Kolesnikov, Vitaly Gerasimov, and Andrey Sukhovetsky. The Independent writes, that Lieutenant-General Andrei Mordvichev reportedly died on an airfield in Chornobayivka. However, Russian officials have only confirmed the death of Sukhovetsky. Although they tend to stay away from battlefields, Insider explains that Russian generals are heading to the front lines in an attempt to gain some control in the invasion. However, instead of making advancements, they're putting themselves in a highly vulnerable position.

The Ukranian's have been jamming Russian signals

At least one general has been reportedly killed by a sniper, according to 19FortyFive. Another has been allegedly killed due to Ukrainian interception of Russian communication. The BBC reports that as Ukraine targets high-ranking officials, knowing where they are is crucial. Most importantly, the Russians are failing to secure their communication channels. Defense analyst Konrad Muzyka of Rochan Consulting stated, "If the Russians are using mobile phones or analog radios to communicate with senior officers, the Ukrainians have everything on their plate." It's also an advantage that the generals have moved closer to the front lines.

How have the Ukrainians managed this feat? Simply put, they are jamming the poorly secured communication lines, which is forcing Russians to use other means (via Yahoo). This could be a stolen cell phone or a basic radio. The Daily Beast reports that ultimately, this makes a general's location traceable. The New York Times writes that one general and his personnel were reportedly killed when he made a phone call that revealed his position. David Petraeus, a former U.S. general, explained that for a U.S general to die in battle is "very, very uncommon," adding, "this is in the first three weeks, and these are quite senior generals."

What the deaths of the generals means for Russia

The alleged deaths of the five generals are a massive loss for Russia in more ways than one, as 19FortyFive writes. First and foremost, it's difficult to find replacements in such a short amount of time. Generals, for example, have years of experience and not everyone can fit into this role. These are not average inexperienced soldiers that are dying; they are top officials that are usually kept away from any real action (via Military). However, political pressure and a lack of military manpower forced them to move to the front lines.

Furthermore, Russia is losing more than just its generals, thousands of soldiers have reportedly been killed (up to 14,000) and it's estimated that 21,000 have been injured, as The New York Times notes. This is an astronomical figure considering that 150,000 Russian troops are believed to be in Ukraine and reinforces the notion that Vladimir Putin did not fully contemplate Ukraine's military power.

In other words, he's potentially in a bad situation and he knows it. As news of the fifth general's alleged death emerged, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky released a video stating that if Putin did not meet with him to discuss peace talks, "Russia's costs will be so high that you will not be able to rise again for several generations," (via The New York Post).

Russian morale is at an all-time low

These casualties are deeply distressing Russian soldiers, CNN writes. Evelyn Farkas, a former Pentagon official explained, "Losses like this affect morale and unit cohesion, especially since these soldiers don't understand why they're fighting," (via The New York Times). This is worsened by the fact that the soldiers were not as prepared or as successful as they thought they would be, Military reports. In fact, Newsweek writes that Russian soldiers were duped into a war. They believed they were going to be welcomed by Ukrainians and liberating them from Nazis. This, however, was not the case.

Due to Vladimir Putin's wide control of information and media, it's believed that a majority of the Russian people are truly unaware of what's going on in Ukraine or the number of casualties they have endured. As explained by Jeffrey Edmonds, the former director for Russia on the National Security Council, "The Russian citizens that know absolutely the most about this war are the soldiers that are getting shot at as we speak" (per Military).

Besides generals and soldiers, the Russian army is losing equipment and other items that are making their situation even worse. Additionally, despite the promise of financial gain and being lauded as a veteran, Russian troops are increasingly refusing to fight in Ukraine, per CNN.

Russia underestimated the Ukrainian military

As the Russian army continues to experience mass casualties and numerous other losses, a NATO intelligence officer explained that "it becomes more evident every day that [Vladimir] Putin gravely miscalculated," as CNN reports. In other words, he never thought he would face such resistance from the Ukrainians and perhaps, that will be his downfall. CNBC writes that Russia has failed to take any cities or gain any large victories. Another article from CNBC explains that Putin also underestimated President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian and actor, who has successfully garnered support from numerous nations across the world, including the United States.

The Atlantic Council believes that Putin's biggest mistake was thinking that the Ukrainian people could be intimidated by him. In essence, he's become a victim of his own dictatorship and propaganda. Putin thought he would be in and out when he invaded Ukraine; he did not think he would start a war with a country that is home to 40 million people. As his military continues to crumble, he's taking grave measures to counteract his losses. This includes hiring foreign soldiers and threatening the use of nuclear weapons. This has led 90% of Ukrainians to believe that they will ultimately be victorious against Russia and Putin.