The 20 stone general, 67, is now said to be in charge of Russian special forces operating in the region after the unit’s former commander was seriously injured in an artillery strike.
The veteran of Russia ’s disastrous war in Afghanistan is known as General Pavel.
A senior intelligence source last night told the Daily Star Sunday: “Putin is now scraping the barrel.
“Most of his best and battle-hardened senior commanders have been killed or injured fighting in Ukraine so he is resorting to sending second rate officers to the front who don’t last very long.
“He is now dragging generals out of retirement and one of those is General Pavel.
“Putin is like a mafia boss who no one can refuse to obey. If a retired general gets a message from Putin saying mother Russia needs you to fight in Ukraine there is not much you can do. There is now escape from Russia thanks to the sanctions.”