Top Russian airborne commander killed in Ukraine in further blow to Putin

The colonel was 'liquidated' by Ukrainian forces

An injured woman looks on as she receives medical treatment after shelling in a residential area in Kyiv on Friday. (Photo by Aris Messinis  /  AFP)

A top Russian paratroop commander has been killed in Ukraine, state TV in Moscow confirmed, in a further setback for President Vladimir Putin’s war.

Col Sergei Sukharev was “liquidated” by Ukrainian forces, the country’s Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security said. He is the fourth confirmed Russian general to be taken out since the invasion began, while Ukraine claims it has killed a fifth.

The death of the commander, of the 331st Guards Parachute Assault Regiment from Kostroma, will serve another blow to Mr Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which analysts say is not going as well as he had hoped. Multiple members of the regiment, considered to be among Russia’s most elite fighting forces, were slain in the same operation.

“Commander of the Kostroma Airborne Regiment, Colonel Sergei Sukharev … got lost in the ‘[military] exercises’, but returned home the right way,” said the Ukrainian statement.

His deputy, Major Sergei Krylov, was killed alongside him, the Ukrainian report said.

Russia admitted that three others, including a senior sergeant and a corporal, were among the dead.

Sukharev was last seen on Russian TV in January, when thousands of troops were massing on Ukraine’s borders amid Kremlin denials of any invasion plans.

The colonel appeared on screens as he led troops back from Kazakhstan where they had been deployed as “peacekeepers” after protests.

On Friday, day 23 of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, invading forces expanded their missile strikes to the western city of Lviv.

Andriy Sadovyi, the city’s mayor, said several missiles hit a facility for repairing military planes near the city’s international airport and also damaged a bus repair site.

No casualties were immediately reported in the strikes on Lviv, which has had its population swelled by about 200,000 people seeking refuge from attacks across Ukraine.

Shelling around the capital of Kyiv also continued as the number of refugees estimated to have fled the country exceeded 3.4 million.

Early morning barrages hit a residential building in the Podil neighbourhood of the capital, killing at least one person, according to emergency services, which said 98 people were evacuated from the building. Kyiv's mayor Vitali Klitschko — the former world heavyweight boxing champion turned politician — said 19 were wounded in the shelling

Two others were killed when strikes hit residential and administrative buildings in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, according to the regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko.

The death toll for Kyiv since the war began stands at 222, authorities say, including 60 civilians and four children.

Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko holds people away from a five-storey residential building that partially collapsed after shelling in the city on Friday. Photo: AFP

Speaking at the scene of the latest attack on the capital on Friday, Mr Klitschko ruled out the possibility that Russian forces could have mistaken the apartment blocks for a military base.

“It’s not a military base,” he said. “It’s just an apartment for civilians.”

Mr Klitschko said he expected Mr Putin’s forces to further pummel the capital as they have done in other cities in Ukraine.

“If you look in Mariupol, if you look in Kharkiv, if you look in other cities, Chernihiv right now, where the civilians will be destroyed, the city will be destroyed, I expect the Russians do it exactly the same in Kyiv.”

Updated: March 18, 2022, 2:58 PM