A Russian submarine commander shot to death while jogging on Monday may have been targeted by an assailant tracking him on a popular running app, according to Russian media.
Stanislav Rzhitsky was killed earlier this week in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar by an “unknown person,” state news agency TASS reported, adding that “the motive for the crime is being investigated.”
Russia’s Investigative Committee said on Telegram a man has been detained in connection with Rzhitsky’s killing, adding the suspect had a pistol with a silencer in his possession “by means of which, presumably, the murder was committed.”
Russian media earlier reported that Rzhitsky’s killer may have used Strava, a widely available app used by runners and cyclists, to follow his movements.
Rzhitsky’s jogging and cycling routes appear on an account in his name on the Strava app. One of his regular jogging circuits that he took while working in Krasnodar include the park where he was killed early Monday.
One Russian media outlet, Tsargrad, said the assailant “planned the murder so carefully that the moment of the attack did not appear on any CCTV cameras.”
“The killer waited in the park near the sports complex ‘Olympus,’ where Rzhitsky regularly made morning jogs. The man died on the spot, the shooter is on the run.”
The Strava profile in Rzhitsky’s name shows that he also used to cycle in Sevastopol in 2014, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based.
CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the Strava profile, but it includes many photographs of him.
Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence disclosed how Rzhitsky was apparently shot, in an unusually detailed statement on Telegram. The agency did not explicitly take responsibility for the commander’s death.
“The submariner was jogging in the ’30th Anniversary of Victory’ park in Krasnodar. Around 6 a.m., he was shot seven times with a Makarov pistol. As a result of the gunshot wounds, Rzhitsky died on the spot,” the statement said.
“Due to heavy rain, the park was deserted, so there were no witnesses who could provide details or identify the attacker.”
Rzhitsky commanded one of Russia’s Kilo-class submarine of the Black Sea fleet, capable of firing Kalibr cruise missiles, according to the Ukrainian statement and Russian news reports.
Submarine-launched missile attacks have been responsible for some of the most destructive strikes on Ukrainian cities, including one almost exactly a year ago on the central city of Vinnytsia which killed dozens of people, including three children.
A later statement by the Strategic Communications department of Ukraine’s armed forces sought – on the face of it – to downplay suggestions Kyiv might have carried out the attack.
In language striking a detached, perhaps even sarcastic tone, the statement said Rzhitsky had come to the conclusion that missile strikes that killed civilians were ineffective.
“Obviously, he was eliminated by his own men for refusing to continue to carry out combat orders from his command regarding missile attacks on peaceful Ukrainian cities,” the statement concluded.
Rzhitsky’s family said he “didn’t participate” in the war on Ukraine “in any way,” and had sought to leave the Russian armed forces in 2021, according to the Russian media outlet Baza.
Rzhitsky filed a report for dismissal from the Russian Armed Forces in December 2021. His father said he was in Sevastopol during his dismissal and did not go to sea, Baza reported. He had previously helmed a submarine based in Sevastopol, his father added.
In August 2022, the commander was finally dismissed and later got a job in the administration of Krasnodar.
Rzhitsky’s parents said they talked to him the day before he was killed and he had been “in a great mood,” according to Russian media outlet Izvestia.
“If he had any suspicions, he might have changed plans, routes and so on. But he didn’t say anything,” his father said.
The Investigative Committee of Russia asked for a report on the progress of the investigation into Rzhitsky’s death.
Second senior Russian killed
The war in Ukraine has spread across the border with Russia in recent months, amid reports of intense shelling attacks, drone strikes, and brief incursions on villages in an apparent attempt to destabilize Moscow’s faltering invasion.
Separately, a senior Russian commander, was killed near the Russian-occupied city of Berdiansk in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region on Tuesday, according to Ukrainian officials.
The adviser to Vadym Boichenko, the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, said that Lt. Gen. Oleg Tsokov was killed Tuesday. The mayor does not currently reside in Mariupol, which is under Russian control.
CNN is unable to independently verify reports about the cause of Tsokov’s death – which would deprive Russia of one of its most experienced generals. Tsokov would also be the most senior Russian general to have been killed in Ukraine.
However, a Russian Telegram channel, Military Informer, wrote Tuesday that a “strike by British Storm Shadow cruise missiles on the 58th Army’s reserve command post near Berdyansk,” killed “the deputy commander of the Southern Military District, Lt. Gen. Oleg Tsokov.”
Tsokov, 51, appears to have been a rising star in the Russian military. In 2021, he addressed a ceremony at the Kremlin attended by President Vladimir Putin for military cadets. Thanking Putin for driving the modernization of Russia’s military, Tsokov said: “For us, the profession of an officer is not just service. This is the calling and meaning of all life, the willingness to sacrifice life for our great Motherland.”
Amid persistent turmoil in Russia’s command structure, Tsokov continued to be promoted through the campaign. A presidential decree in February promoted him to the rank of lieutenant general.
He remained in the Russian armed forces despite reports by Russian military bloggers that he’d been wounded last September in the Svatove area of Kharkiv.
At that point he appears to have been the commander of the 20th Guards Army, having been recently promoted from command of the 144th Motorized Rifle Division.
Independent analysts and CNN’s own tally indicate that Russia has lost about 10 generals in combat since the invasion began.
CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Katie Bo Lillis, Radina Gigova and Allegra Goodwin contributed reporting.
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