A high-ranking Russian general has been killed during fighting in Ukraine, in what experts say will be a bitter blow for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Andrei Sukhovetsky was the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division and a deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army, and by far the most senior Russian figure to have died in the conflict so far.
A military source said Maj Gen Sukhovetsky had been killed by a sniper.
Mr Putin confirmed that a general had been killed in a speech updating the Russian people on the progress of the conflict, eight days into the deadly invasion.
Maj Gen Sukhovetsky’s death, which was confirmed by a local officers’ organization in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia, will be seen as another sign Mr Putin’s war effort is not going to plan.
He was a respected paratrooper, practiced in missions in “hostile territory”, and reportedly had been decorated for his role in the annexation of Crimea.
Sergey Chipilev, a deputy of the Combat Brotherhood Russian veterans group, wrote on social media: “With great pain, we learned the tragic news of the death of our friend, Major General Andrey Sukhovetsky, on the territory of Ukraine during the special operation. We express our deepest condolences to his family from him.”
Russian newspaper Pravda, which also reported his death, said Mr Sukhovetsky graduated from the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School in 1995, having started as a platoon commander before rising to chief of staff of the Guards airborne assault unit.
Christo Grozev, executive director of investigative journalism website Bellingcat, tweeted that confirmation of his death would be a “major demotivator” for the Russian army.
Maj Gen Sukhovetsky, 47, had steadily risen through the military ranks to take a series of leadership positions, and he took part in Russia’s military campaign in Syria.
Russia claims 498 of its soldiers have been killed in Ukraine and another 1,597 have been wounded.
However, British officials say the actual number of those killed and wounded will almost certainly be considerably higher and will continue to rise.
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The UN human rights office says at least 227 civilians have been killed and 525 wounded in Ukraine since the start of the invasion a week ago. Ukraine’s state emergency service has said more than 2,000 civilians have died.
A member of Ukraine’s delegation sent to talks with the Russians said both sides had agreed to establish corridors for civilians to safely leave combat zones.
The corridors will include cease-fires along the path, said Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to president Volodymyr Zelensky.
Humanitarian supplies could be delivered though the corridors, which were the Ukrainians’ main demand heading into their second round of negotiations in Belarus. Mr Putin also announced the safe zones.
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