Ukraine’s campaign to resist more powerful Russia by targeting and killing key military personnel and occupation authority officials has seen successes thanks to precision-guided munitions and behind-the-lines hit teams, recent news reports have said.

Mikhail Filiponenko, a senior security officer in the Moscow-controlled “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LPR), was the most recent victim of the Kyiv-inspired assassination campaign, dying in a booby-trap bomb in his car next to his apartment on Wednesday morning.

A career police officer who turned his face against Ukraine’s central government in 2014, Filoponenko survived an earlier car bomb, attack in February according to the pro-Russia military information platform Voenniy Osvedomitel.

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Filiponenko’s demise came a day after at least one US-made HIMARS precision-guided missile struck a government building in the Russia-occupied city of Donetsk, demolishing its roof and killing at least six occupants. According to the independent news channel Censor.net, the premises were home to the “Republic Center for UAV systems” and the main training site for attack drone pilots supporting Russian military operations in the region. At least 11 people in the building, some drone operators, were reportedly injured. An unknown number of victims, whose fate was unknown, was still trapped in rubble on Wednesday, the report said.

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The most spectacular recent Ukrainian strike targeting critical Russian military personnel took place on Nov. 1, when a Britain-manufactured Storm Shadow cruise missile slammed into a hotel in the Azov Sea resort city of Berdyansk. A Ukrainian air force spokesman said the southern headquarters of all Russian occupation forces had been set up inside the building, and that the commander of Russia’s joint forces “Dnipro”, Colonel General Mikhail Teplinskiy, was seriously injured or possibly killed in the attack.

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A career paratrooper officer reportedly popular with troops, Teplinskiy was sacked in Nov. 2022 following, what was for a senior Russian officer, a rare public complaint about weak artillery support that had resulted heavy casualties among attacking Russian forces. He returned to command of the sector in Sep. 2023.

Ukrainian intelligence is still uncertain of Teplinskiy’s status, but three senior members of his staff died in the strike, Ukrainian Interior Ministry spokesman Anton Gerashchenko said in a Tuesday statement.

Gerashchenko identified three confirmed killed in the missile strike as Colonel Vadim Dobryankov, Colonel Aleksei Koblov, and Colonel Aleksandr Galkin. All were long-serving paratrooper officers and the backbone of Teplinkiy’s command team for Joint Forces Dnipro, Gerashchenko said.

One of the highest-profile leaders of “separatist” attacks against Ukrainian government buildings and officials in 2014, Colonel Vladimir Popov, a top officer in the Terek Cossack Brigade, died on Nov. 3. It was not clear whether his death widely reported in both Ukrainian and Russian local media was in combat or at the hands of an assassin. He was aged 66 and died violently, reports agreed.

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According to information publicly available on the Russian V Kontakte social media site, a top Russian government police investigator, Colonel Viktor Perederiy, likewise died in Ukraine on duty, according to Nov. 3 reports. The Ukrainian news platform Espreso Global reported Perediy and associate police colonel Vladimir Popov were killed “in combat operations”.

Ukrainian partisans or special forces operators failed to assassinate Oleg Tsaryov, in a gun ambush near his home in the Crimean resort city Yalta on Oct. 27. A former member of Ukraine’s parliament, Tsaryov volunteered his services to Moscow following Russia’s takeover and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014. 

Russian investigators arrested a suspect who, according to state-controlled Russian media, confessed to cooperating with operatives from Ukraine’s national security service, the SBU in an attempt to shoot Tsaryov dead as he drove to work. The attack left Tsaryov severely injured and hospitalized.

In Oct. 31 television images aired by the Kremlin-controlled Russia Today channel, Tsaryov said he planned to return to work following recovery from gunshot wounds. He said he was the victim of a terrorist attack: “I want to say that I have never been afraid of terrorists, let them be afraid. Sooner or later, they will have to answer for what they did. For the attack, for the acts of terror, for the war, for all that they have done with Ukraine.”

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In a Nov. 8 post on his personal Telegram channel, Tsaryov said his priority is improving supply support to Russian troops on the fighting line.

The highest-profile “decapitation” attack by Ukrainian forces of the war thus far took place on Sep. 22, when three Storm Shadow missiles leveled a morning meeting attended by most of the senior officers of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in its headquarters, in the city Sevastopol. The strike reportedly killed or seriously injured dozens.

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