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Putin’s chief of staff ‘wounded by shrapnel’ in fighting in Ukraine

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 23: Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, attends the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security in Moscow, Russia on June 23, 2021. (Photo by Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Valery Gerasimov planned the Ukraine invasion with Vladimir Putin (Image: Getty Images)

Vladimir Putin’s top military commander has reportedly been wounded and evacuated from Ukraine.

Valery Gerasimov had been deployed on April 27 to monitor the Russian advance in the Donbas region and in eastern Ukraine.

But the 66-year-old – who is leading Russia’s war campaign alongside Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu – appears to have already left the conflict zone.

Gerasimov was wounded during intense fighting in Izyum in the Kharhiv region of Ukraine.

A Russian source claims that the commander suffered ‘a shrapnel wound in the upper third of his right leg without a bone fracture’.

Three others in his group were killed during the fighting, it is believed.

Splinters were reportedly removed without endangering Gerasimov’s life.

Vladimir Putin flanked by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on the left and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, on the right (Photo: AP)

A Ukrainian military vehicle drives to the front line during a fight in the middle of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, near Izyum, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on April 23, 2022. REUTERS / Jorge Silva REFILE - DIRECTION REGION

A Ukrainian military vehicle drives to the front line near Izyum on April 23 (Photo: Reuters)

Russian news media Agentstvo reported that Gerasimov was ‘flown out’ of the conflict zone by a Mi-8 military helicopter after sustaining his injury.

Sources say he was taken to the Russian city of Belgorod, where he boarded a Tu-154 plane from the Ministry of Defense.

The destination of the aircraft is still unknown.

The founder of the Independent Conflict Intelligence Team (ICIT) Ruslan Leviev claimed that an eyewitness had seen Gerasimov board the plane ‘without assistance’.

On the Telegram, Mr Leviev wrote: ‘The source confirms that it was Gerasimov who flew away.

“But he went on board himself, alive and well.”

Vladimir Putin at a military exercise by Valery Gerasimov (left) in September (Image: Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces General Valery Gerasimov during the annual meeting of the Board of the Ministry of Defense in Moscow on December 21, 2021. (Photo by Sergei GUNEYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI GUNEYEV) / SPUTNIK / AFP via Getty Images)

The couple are said to be the ‘engineers’ of the conflict together with Sergei Shoigu (Photo: AFP)

Ukrainian government official Anton Gerashchenko confirmed that Gerasimov had been wounded, adding that a ‘large number’ of Russian senior officers had died.

Major General Andrei Simonov, 55, was killed during the same fighting in Izyum. He is the ninth Russian general to die during the conflict.

He was Russia’s most respected commander of electronics warfare and served with the 2nd Combined Armed Forces.

Putin had sent Gerasimov to the front lines to ‘change course’ for Russia’s subversive invasion, the Ukrainian official told the New York Times.

Ukrainian officials say an attack on a central command center in Izyum has killed about 200 Russian troops.

More than 30 Russian armored vehicles were reportedly destroyed during the fierce fighting.

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