Ukrainian infantrymen attacking the Kharkiv Region town of Balakliya have likely captured a top Russian general in charge of half the forces deployed in Ukraine by the Kremlin.

Images closely resembling Lieutenant General Andrei Sychevoi, commander of the Russian Federation’s (RF) Group of Forces West, appeared on Ukrainian social media, and then on independent news platforms on Wednesday, September 7.

A widely-reported video shows a bound RF officer with facial features closely resembling Sychevoi’s official photographs, being interrogated by Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) soldiers. By the evening of Thursday, September 8 independent Ukrainian news sources were reporting Sychevoi’s capture as likely, but not confirmed.

The kneeling man is shown wearing a standard-issue Russian army camouflage uniform and Lieutenant Colonel rank, without other markers. He is bleeding from a cut on his brow and does not answer UAF soldier questions.

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Were General Sychevoi to be in UAF hands, he would become the highest-ranking Russian officer to become a prisoner of war since World War Two.

Neither official Ukrainian nor RF propaganda platforms have commented on Sychevoi’s whereabouts.

Russian state-controlled information platforms have since Wednesday, September 7 played down the scale of Ukraine’s Kharkiv offensive, calling it a spoiling attack that RF forces will contain and then destroy.

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.”

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Ukrainian social media on Friday, September 9 belied that Kremlin line, with a flood of photos and videos of jubilant UAF infantrymen raising Ukrainian flags in liberated villages, destroyed or captured Russian tanks, UAF soldiers digging through abandoned RF ammunition depots, and UAF armored columns rumbling eastward on village streets lined by cheering civilians.

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Infiltrating Ukrainian special operations infantry led off the Wednesday, September 7 assault on Balakliya with a surprise nighttime attack that, reportedly, took RF outposts by surprise and captured dozens of prisoners.

Most were identified as men from Ukraine’s Luhansk Region who had been conscripted to hold front line positions by the RF. The RF officer wearing the lieutenant colonel’s rank was among the POWs.

UAF tank and mechanized infantry columns were quick to exploit the success and by Thursday evening UAF armored spearheads had lunged eastward more than 30 kilometers, reaching the outskirts of the important road hub town of Shevchenkove.

A UAF media blackout on troop movements remained in effect on Friday, September 9. According to ColonelCassad, a RF-associated social media poster frequently commenting on military issues, battles were in progress in the vicinity of Shevchenkove on the morning of Friday, September 9.

UAF raiding groups were reportedly active 30 km. to the east, near the critical RF railhead base of Kupyansk, the report said. The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in a situation report issued on the evening of Thursday, September 8, predicted that UAF forces, if their advance were to go  unchecked, might capture Kupyansk by Monday, September 12.

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