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Ukrainska Pravda recently reported on the death of another Russian major general:

Russia has confirmed the death of Major General Vladimir Zavadsky in the war in Ukraine. He was blown up by a mine.

There are now 7 confirmed deaths among Russian generals in the Russia-Ukraine war. But... is this actually supposed to be a major event? Is there any correlation between a general being killed and subsequent problems for Russia on the battlefield?

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    Google says "The modern Russian army has more than 1,300 generals of various ranks." Nov 30, 2023 at 1:44
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    @Fizz right, which is why I don't understand why the media even bothers reporting this... Nov 30, 2023 at 1:52
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    Ukrainian media. Israeli media also reports how many terrorists were said to have been killed each day. Nov 30, 2023 at 2:00
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    This isn't really an answer per se, but Zadavsky's death is an effect, rather than a cause (or perhaps in addition to a cause) of Russian command breakdown. According to the ISW, one brigade in the area suffered at least 50 casualties from friendly mines in the last month alone.
    – Cadence
    Nov 30, 2023 at 9:33
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    @JonathanReez The media will report just about anything. Especially if it has potential use for propaganda. Typically, anything that boosts the morale of your side and hurts the morale of the enemy will be reported.
    – David S
    Nov 30, 2023 at 15:52

2 Answers 2

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According to some armchair analysts who got interviewed by media the last time that happened, there is a correlation between dead generals and previous trouble on the battlefield, especially if the death is by sniper (or, as now, by a landmine).

In a well-run army, the job of a general is to direct the colonels who direct the majors who direct the companies. If a general ends up on the battle line, either someone miscalculated the risk of the visit or someone decided to take the risk. The latter would happen because of a breakdown or trust or communications between the headquarters and the frontline troops. When a general is personally required to coordinate the actions of two battalions, or the food supply to the trenches, something is wrong.

And if a general is targeted back in the headquarters e.g. by MLRS, camouflage has failed. Also a bad sign.

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Q1: Is this a major event? I don't understand why the media even bothers reporting this.

This might look too harsh (so please help me to edit this), but this is probably because you have very little understanding of military and war.

Death of a general is extremely important even by itself. Those are not the people who are on the front line and engage in a fight. They should not be killed at all so yes, this is a very major event. Those people are responsible for general strategy and have information from various subordinates (who usually do not share it between each other). If you worked at any decently sided organization working on any more or less complex problem, you should know how much time it takes to onboard a new lo-level manager (for example in Fb/G it might take half a year). Now imagine how much secret information a general should know about different parts of a front. You need to find a suitable person:

  • whom you can share all this information
  • who will be able to comprehend all it in a timely manner
  • whom colonels will trust and support
  • who has expertise in that area and is not doing anything useful now

In many more or less complex organization there is politics involved and in Russian army this is even more so. So with the death of high-level guy there is a lot of uncertainty. One of those colonels/colonel-lieutenants might have relied on old guy for their promotion/better treatment so they are not enthusiastic with that option disappeared. Some were against it so now they have an option to show how bad the old guy was. This creates more tension and anarchy.

Now your point: oh they have 1300 generals. Generals are not a commodity (basic goods interchangeable with other goods of the same type). You can't easily substitute one for another. To give you another example from business: lets assume that one of the CEOs of big US companies have been killed (suddenly killed, not died months after he officially resigned and years after his serious illness was known and another guy was already taken his responsibilities). Based on your point "what's the big deal, US has thousands of other CEOs", but I can guarantee you that market will react to this very swiftly (with stock tanking), people inside the company will react also with interviewing for another companies.

Q2: Is there any correlation between a general being killed and subsequent problems for Russia on the battlefield?

First this is usually a delayed effect. In the beginning situation is becoming bad and high-level guys have to react to this. They are moving closer to the action and get killed (that guy was killed on a mine). As I told in a previous question, this should not even happen.

Now regarding a problem on the battlefield. This is 645th day of the '3-days fast military operation' of the '2nd best army in the world'. Army whos active personnel was 5x bigger, had 5x more APV, 10x more planes and helicopters and having 10x more budget and infinitely times more navy.

If loss of 330k people, 300 planes, 300 helicopters, 5k tank, 10k apv, 22 ships is not showing problems on the battlefield, then I am not sure what will you count as a problem.

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    Apple stock only went down by 0.5% on the day after Steve Jobs dies - and that's one of the most famous CEOs of all time. So I'm not sure if the CEO death comment is true. Nov 30, 2023 at 22:27
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    @JonathanReez this just further shows misunderstanding of the situation. When he died, he was not a CEO at all. He resigned 2 month before his death and at the time of his death Tim Cook was already 2 month as a CEO (who by the way as kind of a CEO there starting from 2009 because of SJ illness). His death also was not a surprise for a market at all as it is known that he has a very serious illness). Now imagine what would have happened if not a guy who was a CEO some time ago died when everyone expected him to die, but if a CEO would be killed out of a sudden. Look Sam Altman drama in OpenAI Nov 30, 2023 at 22:50
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    OK, then here's another paper. Seems like half the time the stock actually goes up. I suspect it's the same with Russian generals - some will be great, some mediocre and some actively harmful to the war effort. Nov 30, 2023 at 23:06
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    This is the original paper. The last page has the summary of negative vs positive reactions. Nov 30, 2023 at 23:41
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    You can't easily substitute one for another. When you have 1000+ of them, indeed you can. That is how soldiers and officer cadres are trained - to be easily replaceable because in a war you lose many of them. Sure, they will take some time to update themselves on what has been happening in a sector they weren't in charge of, but that minor delay doesn't affect the overall operation in a good unit.
    – sfxedit
    Dec 1, 2023 at 2:49

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