Ukraine likely has captured a Russian general in what could be the highest-ranking military officials from Moscow to have been taken prisoner since World War II. Ukrainian media claims to have captured Andrei Sychevoi, a high-ranking Lieutenant-General and commander of Russia's Group of Forces West.
In a video that surfaced on Wednesday, a man wearing a mid-ranking Lieutenant-uniform Colonel's was among a group of Russian POWs that Ukraine had captured during a surprise counterattack close to Kharkiv. Many noted the similarity of one of the captured men to other images of Sychevoi. If the image is that of Sychevoi, then Ukraine may have made one of the biggest psychological strikes on Vladimir Putin.
On Wednesday videos and images of Lieutenant General Andrei Sychevoi, head of the Group of Forces West of the Russian Federation (RF), started to circulate on Ukrainian social media and then on independent news websites. The video shows Russian POWs detained by Ukraine amid a surprise counter-attack near the city of Kharkiv.
Among the soldiers captured there was a man wearing the uniform of a mid-ranking Lieutenant-Colonel. Ukraine now claims that the man is Sychevoi.
The Kyiv Post was one of the Ukrainian outlets to publish the news, alleging that General Sychevoi had hurriedly tried to conceal his identity before being detained by donning a uniform of a lower rank.
The newspaper, a trustworthy information source during the war, portrays Sychevoi's capture as "probable, but not confirmed."
If true, it would be another embarrassing setback for Putin's army since he would become the highest-ranking Russian officer taken prisoner since the Second World War.
At least 12 Russian generals are alleged to have been killed by Ukraine, the majority of whom are reported to have perished as a result of artillery or missile strikes on command positions. However, if the rumors are true, this would be the first time that Kyiv's troops had been able to capture one alive and that too one of the highest-ranking Russian officials.
The military of either Russia or Ukraine has not yet confirmed or denied the capture of Sychevoi.
Numerous Russian generals were taken prisoner by the Nazis during battles between 1941 and 1945; the majority of them perished horribly in labor or concentration camps. If Ukraine has really managed to capture Sychevoi, it's going to be a major psychological victory over Putin and the Russian forces.
The Russian forces have lost over 50 commanders in the war with Ukraine which is now in its seventh month.
The reports came to light as Ukraine launched a swift counterattack on Wednesday to the east of Kharkiv. Kyiv's leaders broke through frontlines that had been left weakly defended after hundreds of troops were transferred south to assist defend Kherson, where another Ukrainian operation is currently underway, utterly taking the Russians by surprise.
As Putin's men fled, troops marched more than 12 miles in a single day, capturing the town of Balakliya, which had once been home to a significant Russian outpost.
The city of Kup'yans'k, which spans the Oksil River and has a crucial railway junction through which practically all Russian supplies traveling to Donbas transit, is thought to be Ukraine's likely target, according to experts and observers. It is located near the Oksil River.
If Ukraine is successful, it will cut off Izyum, the base for its assault on Donbas, and put forces there at risk of being besieged. More broadly, it will severely deplete the supply of equipment needed by forces in the wider region to support their attacks, especially artillery ammo.
However, since Wednesday, state-run media outlets in Russia have downplayed the scope of Ukraine's Kharkiv offensive, characterizing it as a spoiling strike that RF forces will restrain before destroying.
According to the Kyiv Post, the RIA Novosti agency said: "There can be no discussion of a breakthrough by Ukrainian troops...the fields of Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia are littered with the corpses of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, who were sent to inevitable death."