Isolated Putin detains senior FSB security chiefs while third Russian general is killed in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin on a poster in central Moscow

Two senior officers in the Russian security service, the FSB, have been put under house arrest by President Vladimir Putin, according to a report this weekend.

Andrei Soldatov, of the investigative website Agentura, reported that Sergei Beseda, the head of the Fifth Service – the FSB’s foreign intelligence branch – and his deputy have been detained.

If confirmed, it could be a sign Putin is deeply concerned about the FSB’s role in the offensive against Ukraine, Western officials said.

“Both men have played a major role in intelligence operations against Ukraine for several years and highly likely played a major role in the planning for the invasion,” one said.

“There could be significant changes at senior levels in the FSB.”

Third general killed

The arrests come as there are reports that the killing of a third Russian general in the fighting in Ukraine may be a further sign of the weakness of Russian forces, Western sources believe.

The Ukrainian armed forces said Gen Andrei Kolesnikov, the commander of the Eastern Military District, is the latest senior Russian officer to die since Moscow’s troops invaded their country on 24 February.

It follows the deaths of Gen Vitaly Gerasimov and Gen Andrei Sukhovetsky in little over a week.

The Russians will have around 20 officers of that rank in theatre in Ukraine, it is thought.

Those killed being so far forward at this stage of the conflict is significant, believe Western officials believe, who suggested morale among Russian troops is low after two weeks of war.

“You would expect to see that at a point when troops are unable to make decisions of their own and lack situational awareness or are fearful of moving forward, at which point more senior officers come forward to lead from the front.”

Western official

According to the latest Ministry of Defence intelligence assessment, Russian forces appear to be attempting to “reset and reposture” for renewed attacks – including against Kyiv.

However, the logistical issues which have held up their advance continue to hamper their progress, while the Ukrainians continue to put up fierce resistance.

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