Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian military, traveled to the Russian-controlled city of Izyumand made a stop at a school housing Russian troops, according to the report. Ukrainian officials learned of the visit and launched an attack on Saturday that killed some 200 Russian troops and a general, but not Gerasimov, who had already left for Russia, according to the New York Times report, which cited unnamed Ukrainian and U.S. officials.
Gerasimov is reportedly one of three people, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who planned the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. A visit to the front lines is an unusual trip for such a high-ranking official to take.
Gerasimov was reportedly in Ukraine to “change the course“ of Russia’s offensive in the eastern part of the country. U.S. officials said in the report that Gerasimov had been in Ukraine for at least “a couple of days” because “there’s a recognition [Russian forces] haven’t worked out all their problems yet.”
Last week, the Pentagon said that Russian forces have only made “incremental progress” in their mission to capture Ukraine’s Donbas region, describing their military gains in the region as “slow and uneven.”
Morale problems continue to plague Russian forces in Ukraine, according to the Pentagon, which said last week that the Kremlin’s army has “not overcome all their logistics and sustainment challenges.”
Putin tapped the so-called “Butcher of Syria,” Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, last month to lead the Russian forces in Ukraine as they prepared to escalate operations in the Donbas region.
A Ukrainian official cited in the report said the decision to attack the school in Izyum sheltering Russian troops was made because “it is an important base of operations” for Russia, and the attack was not specifically targeting Gerasimov. The assault reportedly killed Russian Maj. Gen. Andrei Simonov.