Who is Sergei Sukharev? Top Russian Commander Killed in Ukraine

As Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine enters its fourth week, another Russian military commander has been reported killed in fighting in Ukraine.

Colonel Sergei Sukharev, commander of the 331st Guards Parachute Assault Regiment from Kostroma, was killed in battle along with four other members of the regiment, Russian state-run television and and radio company GTRK Kostroma reported.

Sukharev, who had commanded the paratroop regiment since last year, was killed in battle alongside Captain Alexei Nikitin, Senior Sergeant Sergei Lebedev, Sergeant Alexander Limonov and Corporal Yuri Degtyarev, according to the news outlet.

Ukraine's Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security said in an earlier Telegram post that Sukharev had been killed by Ukrainian troops. His deputy was also killed, it said.

The 331st Guards Regiment fought in eastern Ukraine outside the city of Ilovaisk in Donbas in 2014, took part in both Chechen wars, and in the five-day Russian-Georgia war in South Ossetia in 2008, the Center said.

According to GTRK Kostroma, Kostroma Oblast Governor Sergey Sitnikov expressed his condolences to the family and friends of the fallen soldiers, and said the families of the victims would be fully supported.

The reports did not say when or exactly where the Russian soldiers had been killed.

Newsweek, which has been unable to independently verify the report, has contacted Russia's Defense Ministry for comment.

Sukharev is the latest in a series of senior Russian officers killed since Putin launched the invasion on February 24, demonstrating the strength of the Ukrainian resistance.

Other Russian commanders reported killed in battle include Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, First Deputy Commander of the 41st Army, Andrei Sukhovetsky, Deputy Commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army, Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Safronov, Commander of the 61st Separate Marine Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Denis Glebov, Deputy Commander of the 11th Separate Airborne Assault Brigade and Guards Colonel Konstantin Zizevsky.

More than 7,000 Russian soldiers have died since invasion began, according to U.S. intelligence estimates cited by several news outlets. They include four generals out of 20 that U.S. officials estimate were initially sent to Ukraine.

The deaths have led Western military analysts to puzzle over why so many Russian military commanders have been killed.

An official close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that Ukraine has a military intelligence team dedicated to targeting Russia's leading military figures. "They look for high profile generals, pilots, artillery commanders," the source said.

That has been been made easier since Russian officers have often used unencrypted radios, making it easier to eavesdrop or locate them, the WSJ said.

Rita Konaev, a security analyst at Georgetown University, told the BBC that the targeting tactic could be part of a strategy to boost Ukraine's morale, given that the country's military is outnumbered. "There is the element of being victorious. It is inspiring," Konaev said.

Other analysts have said that senior Russian officers may be pushing further forward on the battlefield than usual to sort out logistical and other problems that have led to Russia's advance getting bogged down in some parts of Ukraine.

The U.K.'s Defense Ministry, in an intelligence update on Thursday, described Russia's offensive as "largely stalled on all fronts," with troops making minimal progress on land, sea, or air in recent days while suffering heavy losses.

"Ukrainian resistance remains staunch and well-coordinated," the update said.

"The vast majority of Ukrainian territory, including all major cities, remains in Ukrainian hands," the ministry said.

A senior Pentagon official offered similar analysis in an update on Thursday, telling reporters that Russian advances largely remain stalled as Ukrainian forces continue to put up stiff resistance.

Putin's forces are "basically frozen around the country on multiple lines of axes, struggling to fuel themselves and to feed their troops and to supply them with arms and ammunition," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Russia has not officially updated its military death toll since its Ministry of Defense on March 2 said 498 soldiers had died.

Follow our live blog for updates on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Ukraine-Russia conflict
Colonel Sergei Sukharev, of the 331st Guards Parachute Assault Regiment from Kostroma, was killed in battle along with four other members of the regiment, Russian state-run television and and radio company GTRK Kostroma reported. Screengrab/GTRK Kostrom