General Sergei Surovikin (L), ex-commander of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (C) during a visit by Russian President Putin to the joint headquarters of the military branches of the Russian armed forces at an unspecified location in Russia on December 17, 2022. (Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
- Russia on Wednesday named a new head of its military campaign in Ukraine.
- The war will now be led by General Valery Gerasimov, one of the original architects of the invasion.
- Gerasimov is replacing General Sergei Surovikin, who was appointed head of the war last October.
- For more stories, go to www.businessinsider.co.za,
Russia has demoted the head of its military campaign in Ukraine less than three months after he was put in charge of the war effort.
In a statement on Wednesday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it was replacing General Sergei Surovikin as commander of its forces in Ukraine with General Valery Gerasimov, who previously served as chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces. Surovikin will now serve as one of his deputies, according to TASS, Russia’s state news agency.
Last May, Gerasimov was reported to have visited the front lines of Russia’s fight in eastern Ukraine, a move described at the time as “highly unusual” for such a high-ranking official. According to The New York Times, he was one of the three people — alongside President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu — who plotted Russia’s February 2022 invasion.
Surovikin, who oversaw Russia’s air war in Syria — a campaign that included the deliberate targeting of hospitals and schools — was picked to lead the war in Ukraine last October. At the time, former colleagues, who dubbed him “General Armageddon,” worried that meant even more war crimes, with one describing him to The Guardian as “absolutely ruthless.”
Under his command, Russian forces retreated last November from the city of Khersonthe only regional capital they had captured since the war began.
In more recent weeks, however, Russia has gained ground near the city of Bakhmut, in part due to the aid of mercenaries from the Wagner paramilitary group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Putin. Under Surovikin, Russia also stepped up air strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, causing widespread blackouts.
Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Philadelphia-based think tank, said on Twitter that the reshuffle of Russia’s war leadership “appears to be a quite significant change,” possibly driven more by politics than any perceived failure on the part of Surovkin. The general was “becoming very powerful,” Lee wrote, and “likely” talking directly to Putin. Demoting him “reasserts the [Ministry of Defense’s] position overseeing the war.”
Mark Galeotti, a senior associate fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, argued that Wednesday’s move was actually a demotion for Gerasimov too, “or at least the most poisoned of chalices.” The general, he wrote on Twitterwill need to show “some kind of win or [his] career ends in ignominy”—and that could mean a big Russian offensive in the spring.
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