Vladimir Putin's top military general is said to have been wounded in Ukraine and sent straight back to Russia just days after arriving to take charge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov had been sent by Putin to take control of the push to Donbas and East Ukraine.
But the unconfirmed claim sees Gerasimov, 66, apparently wounded in Izyum in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, the centre of intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
It is also where Russia's ninth general Major General Andrei Simonov, 55, was killed, according to reports keeping track of deceased Russian troops and top brass.
An unofficial Russian source claimed: "Gerasimov has sustained "a shrapnel wound in the upper third of the right leg without a bone fracture. The shard was removed – there is no danger to life."
Ukrainian government official Anton Gerashchenko has said the Izyum attack was "the very place where… Gerasimov who personally came to lead the attack on Slavyansk, was located".
He added that a "large number" of senior officers had been killed in a blast that is said to have destroyed over 30 Russian armoured vehicles, including tanks.
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Pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel Vertikal alleged Gerasimov had been "wounded near Izyum" and that three of his entourage had been killed, with the Chief of the General Staff evacuated.
Founder of independent conflict intelligence team Ruslan Leviev said an eyewitness at the airport confirmed Gerasimov had boarded the plane unaided.
He posted: "The source confirms that it was Gerasimov who flew away. But he went on board himself, alive and well."
The injury and subsequent retreat of Gerasimov will deal Russians another psychological blow as Ukrainian troops continue to push back Russian troops in a war that appears to have Putin frustrated with his top brass.
Daily Star reported that Putin had allegedly taken full control of the invasion and sent officers into disarray with near-impossible deadlines.
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