Russian Colonel General Gennady Valeryevich Zhidko, aged 57, a previous commander of the Southern Front of the Russian invasion forces into Ukraine and deputy minister of defense, died on Wednesday in Moscow after a reportedly long illness, according to a Russian governor, Mikhail Degtyarev of Khabarovsk Krai. Zhidko had reportedly been put in charge of Russian ground forces in May 2022, replacing General Aleksandr Dvornikov, a fellow general who had commanded Russia’s invasion forces in Syria and who himself was only appointed in April 2022 for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Notably, Zhidko had been removed from his post in the Southern Grouping in October 2022 and was replaced by General Sergei Surovikin, who was later himself replaced by General Valery Gerasimov in January 2023.
Zhidko previously served as Chief of Staff of Russian forces in Syria from 2016 to 2018, until being appointed commander of the Eastern Military District. “I was lucky to know this man, very attentive to the needs of a simple soldier and very diligent in service. It is these commanders who are called commanders,” Degtyarev wrote.
Zhidko’s dismissal in October 2022 was suspected to be in some relation to the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which saw the city of Kherson fall out of Russian control, as well as unsuccessful attempts by the Russian forces to push back against the Ukrainian counteroffensive movement in Kharkiv region and a failure to seize Kharkiv city. There is no evidence or confirmation that the events were connected to his dismissal, and it is also unclear if Zhidko had this illness back then or not.
He was awarded the title of Hero of Russia in 2017. Zhidko was also included in the wave of Western sanctions in 2022.