It was an unusual visit. The news that General Valery Vasilyevich Gerasimov reportedly visited the Eastern Front near Izyum last Saturday, and it was not only because of his high rank that he was reported in the international media.
Gerasimov, who is Russia’s third-highest-ranking serviceman after President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, was injured during his visit to the eastern region, sources said. Rumors of his death even circulated for some time. However, the USA, which still has very good information from its secret services, could not confirm the information. Neither does the Ukrainian side.
Nevertheless, from the perspective of observers, it is remarkable that the 66-year-old traveled so close to the front. The current progress of the Russian military provides a possible explanation: the troops are making little progress in their eastern offensive in the Donbass and, according to American estimates, are lagging behind.
In a recent assessment, the UK Ministry of Defense – citing its own intelligence service – speaks of strategic errors and shortcomings in implementation that would have meant that the Russians could not have converted their combat force into a decisive advantage. There are also reports of weakened morale and crumbling discipline within the various units.
A man like Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff, who has been in the army all his professional life and has a son in the army, should probably motivate the troops. Like other generals before who tried to approach the army and intervene.
The reason why he traveled to Izyum could be for the following reasons: The city of almost 50,000 inhabitants is located in the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv and is one of the main theaters of war. It is considered the gateway to Donbass, the Russian troops would concentrate their forces there in order to get away from the city.
The objective is apparently to create a pocket around Ukrainian troops in Izyum in order to take control of the area east of Ukraine. So far the Russians have taken villages, but entrenched Ukrainian troops are resisting. Again and again there are skirmishes or small retakes.
More information about the war in Ukraine on Tagesspiegel Plus:
Gerasimov Doctrine on Hybrid Warfare
Along with Defense Minister Shoygu, Gerasimov is one of the people with central responsibility for planning this war. Previously, he was responsible for organizing the deployment of the armed forces in Syria and, therefore, was awarded the title Hero of the Russian Federation.
And not only that, he is considered the leader of the “Hybrid War”, the so-called Gerasimov Doctrine. Military objectives must be achieved in combination with other means – economic, political or media. For example, by spreading fake news through pro-Russian propaganda sites. In Germany, we have experience of this approach. There have been repeated cyberattacks, the most significant of which took place in 2015 and targeted the Bundestag.
In 2020, when questioned by members of the Bundestag, former Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of Russia’s “hybrid warfare” strategy, which also included “disorientation” and “distortion of facts”.
Ten generals are already dead
Bad planning on the ground is also believed to be responsible for the fact that Russia has lost ten generals since the start of the war. More recently, high-ranking Major General Andrei Simonov was killed near Izyum during an attack by the Ukrainian army. In addition to him, 100 other soldiers are also said to have died, writes the “Kyiv Post”.
The fact that the Ukrainian armed forces often find high-level targets with important military personnel may be due to exchanges with the United States, which shares specific coordinates with them to locate Russian positions, a US military official told NBC. When the Ukrainians attacked a school in Izyum on Saturday that the Russians had turned into a command center, Gerasimov is believed to have already left, reports the New York Times.