LONDON (Reuters) - The commander of one of Russia's five military districts, heavily criticised for the performance of his troops in Ukraine, is taking a three-week holiday, according to the regional news agency Ura.ru.
The Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
But the Russian newspaper Kommersant cited the press office of the Central Military District, based like Ura.ru in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, as confirming that a temporary commander was standing in for Major-General Alexander Lapin.
Lapin has been the subject of rare public criticism by two close and increasingly vocal allies of President Vladimir Putin: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner private military group, who have both sent units to Ukraine to bolster the efforts of the regular army.
Kadyrov said a month ago, after Russian forces were driven out of the strategic logistics hub of Lyman in eastern Ukraine, that Lapin should be stripped of his medals and sent to the front with a gun to wash away his shame with blood.
Russia has made sweeping changes to its military leadership in the last two months as Ukrainian forces have reclaimed thousands of square kilometres in the northeast, east and south from Russian occupation.
On Oct. 8 it named Air Force General Sergei Surovikin as the overall commander of Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, shortly after the reported sacking of the commanders of the Eastern and Western military districts.
In September, the deputy defence minister in charge of logistics, General Dmitry Bulgakov, was replaced by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, accused by the European Union of orchestrating a siege of the Ukrainian port of Mariupol early in the conflict that killed thousands of civilians.
And in August, the state-owned RIA news agency reported that the commander of the Black Sea Fleet had been fired after a series of humiliations including the sinking of its flagship and the loss of eight warplanes in an attack on a Russian base in Crimea.
Lapin's stand-in as commander of the Central District is Major-General Alexander Linkov, head of its organisational and mobilisation department, Kommersant said.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by William Maclean)