Russian Pravda has reported that the latest update from British Defence Intelligence indicates that at least six Russian commanders and three Generals have been dismissed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. Another 25 Russian generals and 60 commanders have been killed. However, Japan estimates that 25 of Putin’s generals have been killed in the war, based on intelligence gathered by Tokyo in cooperation with the United States and Europe.
Retired General Kiyofumi Iwata, the former chief of staff of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force, described the tally as “unbelievably high,” while speaking to Nikkei Asia, especially when compared with the U.S. which has seen almost no combat deaths of officers ranked that highly.
“The death of a general weakens troop morale,” he said.
The news outlet reported that one theory for such high losses was that Ukraine located commanders by tracking signals from their cell phones, which were used due to communication shortcomings earlier in the war but have since been banned.
“The poor performance of Russia’s armed forces during its invasion of Ukraine has been costly for Russia’s military leadership, highly likely resulting in the dismissal of at least six Russian commanders since the start of hostilities in February 2022,” the British Intelligence update states.
In particular, the commanders of Russia’s Eastern and Western Military Districts have lost their commands.
General-Colonel Aleksandr Chayko was dismissed as Commander of the Eastern Military District in May 2022.
General-Colonel Aleksandr Zhuravlev, who has commanded the Western Military District since 2018, was absent from Russia’s Navy Day in St Petersburg on 31 July 2022 and has highly likely been replaced by General-Lieutenant Vladimir Kochetkov.
General Aleksandr Vladimirovich Dvornikov has subsequently been removed after been given overall command of the operation in Ukraine, and General Sergei Surovikin has assumed command of the Southern Grouping of Forces from General Gennady Valeryevich Zhidko.
“These dismissals are compounded by at least 10 Russian Generals killed on the battlefield in Ukraine. The cumulative effect on consistency of command is likely contributing to Russian tactical and operational difficulties,” the update concludes.
The US has also reported on Russian losses in the war with Ukraine, stating that Russia is losing hundreds of its troops each day.
On 6 August, British intelligence reported that Russia’s war on Ukraine is about to enter a new phase as Russian forces are massing in southern Ukraine.
Lack of confidence in troops
Such a high number of casualties at that level suggests several things — one being a lack of confidence among Russian military leaders in their troops, according to Ganyard.
“It suggests that the generals need to be at the front lines to ensure that their troops are conducting the battle plan in the way that they want,” he said. “But that also suggests a lack of confidence in their troops if they need to be that far forward with that many senior folks.”
That demonstrates Russia’s seriousness about its campaign but is also “an indication of how weak the Russian military has turned out to be in that they need that much senior leadership that far forward,” Ganyard said.
Russian generals also may be especially vulnerable due to the structure of Russia’s military, experts say.
Vulnerable command and control capabilities
Russian troops have also been shown to be vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping while on the ground in Ukraine, Ganyard said.
“One of the many failures of the Russian military in this war is that it has shown how little they have invested in command and control capabilities,” he said. “The Russians aren’t even using encryption, so it means that anybody — if they find the frequency — are able to listen in.”
There are “very credible reports” of Russian troops even confiscating phones from Ukrainian citizens and using those for command and control operations, Ganyard said.
“So obviously, the Ukrainians can tap into their own phone lines if they can figure out who’s doing it,” he said.
Russian soldiers have also been tracked in real-time through geolocation of social media posts, Ganyard said.
“The modern age has introduced lots of benefits, but in the case of the military, it actually becomes dangerous because most of the apps that people are running are not encrypted and they’re passing real-time data of where people are,” he said.
Tracking Russian troops could lead Ukrainian forces to command posts — and likely top military leadership.
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