Ukrainian armed forces' commander in chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, who has not been seen publicly for some time now, was seriously wounded some weeks ago in a Russian strike near Kherson, and is unlikely to return to service, media reports said on Wednesday.
Zaluzhny suffered a head trauma and numerous shrapnel wounds in early May, in a missile attack on a Ukrainian command post not far from the village of Posad-Pokrovskoe, RT quoted RIA Novosti as reporting.
The Russian agency, quoting a source, said that the general had undergone a craniotomy at a military hospital in Kiev after the strike, and doctors say that the 49-year-old is going to live but won't be able to execute his duties as commander anymore.
Speculations about Zaluzhny's whereabouts emerged after he refrained from participating in a high-profile NATO meeting on May 10.
The Chairman of the bloc's military committee, Rob Bauer, said that Kiev told Brussels that the Ukrainian commander couldn't attend in person nor via a video-link due to a "complex operational situation" on the ground in the conflict with Moscow.
Zaluzhny hasn't been seen in public since then, even though footage that has emerged online in recent days that suggested he was fine, turned out to have been made before his disappearance.
On Saturday, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Anna Malyar claimed Zaluzhny was in good health and remained in charge, and that rumours about him were being spread by Russia in an attempt to demoralise the Ukrainian forces during the battle for the strategic Donbas city of Artyomovsk, which the Ukrainians call Bakhmut. Moscow announced the "full capture" of Artyomovsk on Saturday, but Kiev has thus far been reluctant to acknowledge the loss of its key stronghold.