Russia Replaces Ukraine Invasion Commander – As Russian forces struggle to regain previously captured territories in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin this week announced the departure of Sergei Surovikin as the top commander in Ukraine.
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Survovikin, who was tasked with leading the Ukraine offensive just three months ago, will be replaced by Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
The announcement comes as Russia claims to be making some progress in the Donbas region, though could also be seen as an admission that Surovikin’s tactics weren’t working. General Gerasimov, however, is unlikely to operate in a dramatically different way.
The Russian military official, who is the longest-serving chief of the general staff since the fall of the Soviet Union, has long been known as “General Armageddon” as a result of his brutal tactics in Syria. Specifically, Gerasimov oversaw the massive missile strike campaign in Aleppo in 2016.
The bombardment impacted 300,000 residents, causing major damage to the city and cutting off huge numbers of people from food and other essential resources.
Russian forces were also accused of staging chemical attacks in the city.
Why Is Surovikin Leaving Ukraine?
Appointed in October to lead the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Surovikin was widely expected to deploy the same brutal tactics he was responsible for in Syria. Almost immediately after taking charge, Surovikin ordered a series of massive missile and drone strikes in Ukraine – a tactic that he has since relied on heavily in Ukraine.
Analysts expected nothing less than total brutality in Ukraine after Surovikin took charge, and that’s exactly what happened. Surovikin, who was previously jailed for six months after killing three protesters in Moscow during the 1991 coup, lived up to those expectations and has overseen the total destruction of the city of Bakhmut and some of the worst bombardments of residential and energy infrastructure since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict.
Surovikin’s tactics could well be the reason he has been moved from his post, along with the fact that Russian forces are yet to make significant gains on his watch. However, the fact that he will now serve as the deputy commander under General Gerasimov could also indicate that there is no real anger from the Russian president over his performance. Instead, the move could simply be strategic as Russia reportedly prepares for a massive new offensive in the spring.
In a statement this week, the Russian Ministry of Defense said that the decision was designed to ensure “closer contact between different branches of the armed forces” and to improve the “quality and effectiveness of the management of Russian forces.”
Some analysts also suggested that, far from Surovikin being viewed as a failure, he may actually have become too influential in the role, bypassing Gerasimov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu when communicating with the Russian president.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.