Sergei Surovikin ‘General Armageddon’ was demoted by Vladimir Putin after 3 months as Russia’s top commander in Ukraine

Russian officials announced Wednesday that it has demoted the commander leading its offensive in Ukraine—a man nicknamed “General Armageddon.”

On January 11, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that he had appointed Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, as the overall commander of the country’s “special military operations” in Ukraine. .

Gerasimov has several representatives, the government said in a statement—including Sergei Surovikin, his predecessor.

Surovikin, who held the top position for only three months, was known as “General Armageddon” and the “Butcher in Syria” thanks to his reputation for using brutal tactics in other conflicts, including Russia’s long-running operation in war-torn Syria.

A campaign led by Surovikin, targeting hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure in the Syrian city of Idlib, is said to show “indifference to the lives of nearly 3 million civilians” by Human Rights Watch.

After that was appointed to head the operation in Ukraine in OctoberSurovikin led Russia’s targeting of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure—a campaign that left millions of Ukrainian civilians without electricity or running water in the winter.

New boss Gerasimov, who has led the Russian army since 2012, and Defense Minister Shoigu faced widespread criticism from prominent pro-Kremlin military bloggers in Russia, who blame the military leadership for a series of battlefield failures and accused them of incompetence for failing to secure a victory in Ukraine.

Russian General Sergei Surovikin (L), former commander of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (R), pictured on December 17, 2022.

Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

our series of failures for the forces of Moscow in recent months is a missile strike that killed at least 89 Russian troops in the eastern Ukrainian city of Makiivka, which came with a rare confirmation of Russian casualties from the Kremlin. After the strike, Russian officials targeted their own personnel, saying their use of banned cell phones allowed them to be spotted by Ukrainian forces.

Another defeat occurred in Kherson—a major port city in southern Ukraine at that fell to Russian forces shortly after the invasion, giving Moscow control of a coveted land bridge from mainland Ukraine to Crimea, a peninsula in southern Ukraine invaded and annexed by Russian forces in 2014.

However, the troops in Moscow are was met with strong resistance from the locals of Kherson, and in November—with Russian forces under the leadership of Surovikin—the city was liberated from Russian control of Ukrainian troops, a development seen as a major setback for the Kremlin.

Despite the recent string of successful counter-operations in Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry admitted that the reason for the leadership reshuffle on Wednesday was simply an “expansion of the scope of tasks” associated with the invasion. , which Moscow continues to describe as a “special military operation.”

The need for closer cooperation between the different branches of the armed forces, as well as a general push for the development of troop management, also triggered the overhaul, the officials said.

‘Useless juggling’

The overhaul of Russia’s military leadership was met with derision in Ukraine.

on a Facebook post on Wednesday—along with a doctored photo of Surovikin wearing a clown nose—officials at Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications called the reshuffle “useless juggling.”

“Today from the abode of the invaders came the news that the ‘Syrian butcher’ Surovikin was solemnly demoted, and in his place was appointed the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Federation Gerasimov,” they said, before admitting Surovikin’s “greatest success” included the loss of the battle for Kherson and was responsible for the death of thousands of Russian soldiers.

“Whoever Putin and his henchmen appoint, Ukraine will win,” the officials added.

Russian government spokesmen were not available for comment on the changes in military leadership when contacted by luck.

Russia ‘failed’

In an update on Wednesday, the British Ministry of Defense said Gerasimov’s replacement of Surovikin was a “significant improvement in Vladimir Putin’s approach to war management.”

“The dispatch of the Chief of the General Staff as the theater commander is an indication of the growing seriousness of the situation facing Russia, and a clear recognition that the campaign falls short of Russia’s strategic objectives,” said UK defense officials.

They also said the move was likely to be met with “deep anger among many of Russia’s ultra-nationalist and military blogger communities, who increasingly blame Gerasimov for the war’s poor execution.”

“On the contrary, Surovikin is widely admired in this community for his championing of a more realistic approach. As a current deputy commander, his authority and influence will almost certainly be diminished,” the update added. MoD.

Outside influence

Rob Lee, a Russian defense policy expert and senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, said in a tweet Wednesday that while the shake-up appeared “significant,” he did not believe that it was done because Surovikin was looked at. as a failure.

It is “certainly possible that it is driven by political reasons” as well as the growing influence of nationalist bloggers in the homeland.

“As the joint commander of Ukraine, Surovikin became very powerful and probably bypassed Shoigu/Gerasimov when talking to Putin. “This [move] restated the MoD’s position in charge of the war.”

Lee noted that a key Putin ally, oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin — who founded the Russian private military company Wagner Group — has publicly praised Surovikin while criticizing senior MoD leadership.

“This [reshuffle] may also be in part a response to Wagner’s increasingly influential and public role in the war,” Lee speculates.

Meanwhile, Mark Galeotti, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, a British defense and security think tank, said in Twitter on Wednesday that the leadership shake-up was certainly a step down for Surovikin.

“What did Surovikin do wrong? Absolutely not,” he said. “Yes, there are all kinds of changes, including the recent strike in Makiivka, but there is a limit to what a new commander can do in three months. But Putin does not necessarily understand this (remember : no military experience and a court full of sycophants) nor care.

Galeotti said he suspects the changes at the top of Russia’s military have less to do with combat strategy and more to do with politics — specifically, showing the West that Russia is “in it for the long haul.” that time.”

“So what does this really mean?” he said. “Confirmation, if we need it, that there are serious offensives coming, and even Putin recognizes that poor coordination is an issue.”

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