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Ex-Roscosmos head Rogozin, Donetsk proxy leader injured in possible targeted strike
Former Russian Deputy Prime Minister and ex-сhair of space agency Roscosmos Dmitrii Rogozin was wounded along with top proxy official Vitalii Khotsenko in an attack on a restaurant outside occupied Donetsk on the evening of Dec. 21.
According to Russian media outlets as well as Rogozin himself, two people were reportedly killed, including a bodyguard, and five more injured in the attack on the Shesh-Besh restaurant, located in the middle of a forested area just south of the city limits.
Rogozin, who turned 59 on the day of the attack, was hospitalized after a small piece of shrapnel entered his back, “centimeters away from the spine,” according to his personal Telegram account. The exact nature of Khotsenko’s wound is unknown, but Russian state media agency TASS reported that he is in a stable condition with no threat to life.
Rogozin, as well as Russian-installed Donetsk proxy head Denis Pushilin, have accused Ukraine of the attack, saying it was a deliberate strike carried out by Ukrainian heavy artillery.
“Someone leaked the information, and around 7:45 p.m. there were several high-precision hits, including in the place where we were directly located,” Rogozin wrote. “They hit me with 120mm or 155mm caliber rounds. The investigation will determine where and who.”
As reported by Interfax Russia, an unnamed assistant of Rogozin specified the weapon likely used, naming the French CAESAR 155mm self-propelled howitzer.
Ukrainian officials have not commented on the attack.
However, the precision of the strike, on a location hundreds of meters away from any built-up area or piece of infrastructure, suggests that the likelihood of a targeted hit on either or both of the two men is high.
In a mocking Telegram post, political advisor and former Deputy Interior Minister Anton Herashchenko called the attack a “‘birthday present’ from the Ukrainian Armed Forces.” Herashchenko does not in any way represent the official Ukrainian position.
Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine has openly targeted Russian generals, 14 of which are reported to have been killed, mostly in the early months of the war.
Targets sometimes include Russia’s highest-ranking military officials, as evidenced by an April 29 strike on a facility near Izium, Kharkiv Oblast where Russian Chief of the General Staff Valerii Gerasimov was located.
According to an investigation published by the New York Times in December, Washington had requested Kyiv to cancel the strike, but Ukrainian officials said the message came too late, though Gerasimov survived.
Widely understood to have fallen out of the Kremlin’s favor when he was dismissed from his post as head of Roscosmos on July 15, Rogozin no longer serves in an official capacity in Russia.
After his dismissal, Rogozin came to occupied Donbas to serve as the head of the obscure military training group known as “Tsar’s Wolves”, which, according to Russian media, “trains fighters in the Donbas for reconnaissance and assault operations.”
36-year-old Khotsenko, who had served in different bureaucratic posts in the Russian Federation for the last decade, had never lived in Donetsk until he was appointed to his high-ranking proxy position in June 2022.
Neither fits the strict definition of a serving member of the occupying military, but both play a very direct role in Russia’s war.
Speaking on a livestream on the Khodorkovsky Live Youtube Channel on Sept. 17 after a series of strikes on proxy officials in occupied Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podoliak said that such people are “completely lawful military targets.”
“What is happening here is part of the overall work of de-occupying these regions,” he said.
As Deputy Prime Minister of Russia who founded the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry in 2012, Rogozin has previously been directly responsible for the modernization of Russia’s military.
In June, Rogozin was banned from Twitter after publicly calling for the complete extermination of the Ukrainian people “once and for all.”
Note from the author:
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