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Russia claims commander committed suicide, but Ukraine disagrees

 April 2, 2023

Russian Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Lisitsky was found dead last week in his hometown of Stavropol at the age of 48. Although reports claim he died of a gunshot wound it is not yet clear if his cause of death was murder or suicide.

Russian news sources claim Lisitsky killed himself in his kitchen with his personal hunting rifle, citing his depression over the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict. 

Ksenia Sobchak, a well-known Russian journalist wrote, “His colleagues are saying that Lisitsky had lately been depressed and talked about suicide, supposedly because of the complaints about his unlawful actions with respect to the personnel.”

Ukrainian sources, on the other hand, are claiming that he was “liquidated” as revenge for his involvement in the Battle of Ilovaisk and the current ongoing war.

Lisitsky Many Fights

Considered one of Vladimir Putin’s top commanders, Lisitsky was part of the 1st Airborne Assault Battalion of the 247th Airborne Assault Regiment. 

He was one of the few members of the Russian military to hold the “Hero of Russia” medal, one of the highest honors in the country. 

Lisitsky was reportedly involved in almost all of the wars associated with Russia, including Abkhazia, Dagestan, and Chechnya.

Above all, however, Lisitsky is most commonly associated with the August 2014 Battle of Ilovaisk, also known as the “Ilovaisk Cauldron,” where Ukrainians fought Russian separatists in a small town within the Donetsk region.

The Ilovaisk Cauldron is considered by many “Ukraine’s deadliest day” in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict. It is estimated that around 400 Ukrainian soldiers died in the fight.

Although the Russian government refuses to acknowledge its role in the battle, with Putin continuing to claim that any of the soldiers present at the time were mere “volunteers,” Ukrainian veterans disagree, arguing that the Russian troops they fought with were very much legitimate.

Many find that Lisitsky’s “Hero of Russia” medal is proof of this, as it was awarded shortly after the battle was over and no public reason was given for why he deserved it.

Lisitsky’s regiment was also actively involved in the current conflict with Ukraine, with his troops responsible for the Kharkiv region last year. His unit was even investigated for war crimes over their involvement in Bucha in February 2022.

Depressed to Death?

Given his involvement in Ilovaisk, many find it hard to believe that Lisitsky killed himself due to depression. However, considering the ongoing war in Ukraine is now in its second year, some speculate it could be late-onset guilt.

Several colleagues did report that he has repeatedly complained about the “illegal actions [by the Russian military]” that he evidently wanted no involvement in. 

There has been no comment from Russian officials on whether these statements are true.

The theory that Ukrainian forces were involved, however, is not off the table, especially since Lisitsky’s death was first reported by a Ukrainian journalist, Yuri Butusov, despite the fact that he died in Russia.

Butusov stated that it was Kyiv that “avenged Ilovaisk” and “liquidated …. Dmitry Lisitsky,” adding that his death is arguably a win for the Ukrainians as “the liquidation of Lisitsky will seriously weaken the combat capability of the regiment.”

Lisitsky’s death was later acknowledged by local official Alexander Tenkov, who gave no further details on the matter.

Outside of media speculation, no official statement from the Russian government has been made on the situation.