One of Vladimir Putin’s top generals has reportedly been sacked amid wild speculation over his fate.
Reports that the body of Alexander Lapin, a decorated general who led Russian troops in Syria and, this year, in Ukraine, was found in a Moscow river were shared over the weekend by several news outlets and went viral on social media.
Lapin, who has been the commander of the Russian Armed Forces’ Central Military District since 2017, was earlier reported to have been removed from his position. This news came after the general was the target of criticism from the increasingly influential coalition of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Chechen Republic, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary force of mercenaries.
According to widespread reports, colonel-General Alexander Pavlovich Lapin was removed from his post commanding Russian forces in eastern Ukraine after a humiliating retreat.
He had been personally singled out for blame by two of Putin’s key allies – who accused him of “surrendering” the strategic city of Lyman.
Earlier on Saturday, Russian local media quoted a source in the Ministry of Defence as saying that Lapin had taken a three-week holiday.
“At the beginning of next week, he will fly to the hospital, heal, then rest for another week and return to duty,” the source reportedly said.
Lapin’s removal came after he was heavily criticised by Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov twice in the past month over failures in Ukraine.
At the beginning of October he slammed the “talentless” general after Russian troops retreated from the eastern city of Lyman in the Donetsk region.
At the end of the month, Kadyrov accused Lapin of allowing Ukrainian forces to break through one part of the front in what he described as a “surrender”.
Lapin was also slammed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the billionaire boss of the Wagner Group mercenaries known as “Putin’s chef”.
After being encircled by fierce Ukrainian forces, Russia pulled its struggling soldiers out of Lyman in a huge embarrassment for Moscow.
It was a major setback Moscow after Putin declared four regions in Ukraine as part of Russia – including Donetsk, where Lyman is located.
This represented a fall from grace for the general, who was awarded the title of “Hero of Russia” by Putin over the summer after he successfully led troops that captured the city of Lysychansk.
This comes amid fears that Putin may be purging his inner circle and key military personnel over Russia’s disastrous campaign in Ukraine.
British intelligence suggested that Russia is using “mobilised reservists” in its battle on the Dnipro River due to “extremely low” manpower.
Putin is reportedly sending these “poorly trained” soldiers to their deaths, as he desperately attempts to hold onto land in the region.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed during a meeting with Putin that 82,000 conscripts have now been sent to Ukraine in a desperate attempt to bolster Russian troops.
Guardian Online reports that he confirmed the Russian Army was no longer recruiting civilians, which the Russian President admitted was “inevitable”.
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