Sergei Surovikin is no longer the supreme commander of Russian troops in Ukraine.
Marian NadlerEditor News
Sergei Surovikin (56) was only appointed commander of the Russian troops in Ukraine in October. Now he’s already rid of the post. Instead, the Russian Chief of Staff Valeri Gerasimov (67) will take the lead. What are the reasons for the change in the top management of the Russian military?
Surovikin, who earned the nickname “General Armageddon” in the Russian Syrian mission due to brutal airstrikes, has recently been criticized and has had little success. The withdrawal from the strategically important city of Cherson at the beginning of November was not well received at home. The Kremlin-related ideologue Alexander Dugin (60), for example, spoke out clearly against the general’s decisions. “The limit has been reached,” said Dugin to the online news portal Tsargrad. In the Donbass, the Russian army under Surovikin was not able to achieve any significant successes.
Others reported successes. The mercenaries of the Wagner group announced on Tuesday evening that they had taken the strategically important city of Soledar. Ukraine on Wednesday denied claims that the city was under Russian control. But: “In the past few weeks, the Wagner mercenaries in Bachmut and Soledar have made progress. If Soledar has actually been conquered, this of course increases the effect of the group. Similar successes are now expected from the army,” says military expert Marcel Berni (34), strategy expert at the Military Academy of ETH Zurich, to Blick.
Alleged victory over Soledar: “In the long term, it is a weakening for Russia”(10:43)
Now the “special operation” is a top priority
With the appointment of Valeri Gerasimov, Vladimir Putin (70) is raising the invasion of Ukraine to the highest military-strategic level, explains Berni. The 67-year-old was previously the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces. The “most important military chief in Russia” is now taking over.
According to Berni, the fact that Gerasimov is now the supreme commander in Ukraine is also a political message from Kremlin chief Putin. Means: The “special operation” is a matter for the boss. Russia’s president is ready to continue the war in Ukraine for a long time. It is fitting that Moscow justified the realignment with an “expansion of the scope of the tasks to be solved” and the need for closer cooperation between the individual parts of the army.
However, Berni believes that the personnel shift will not change much in the starting position. “Ukraine will not let this upset it,” analyzes the expert.
Wagner mercenaries curse Gerasimov
At the same time, fate is now being determined by a man who is hated by the Wagner mercenaries and their boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin (61). At the end of December, according to “The Daily Beast”, a video of Wagner mercenaries cursing Gerasimov appeared. The fighters felt left alone at the front and complained about the lack of support from the army. One even calls Gerasimov a “damn motherfucker”.
With castling, Putin may be trying to take the wind out of the sails of his former confidant and growing competitor, Prigozhin. Because: “Prigozhin is a threat to Putin,” says Berni. Is this strategy successful? There was also prompt criticism for the change in leadership.
“Special operation” becomes a top priority
With regard to General Alexander Lapin, who was only appointed Chief of Staff of the Land Forces on Tuesday, political scientist Abbas Galliamov commented: “Yesterday Lapin, today Gerasimov and Surovikin. All these reshuffles of the same people from one chair to the next, taking place at the height of the fighting, testify to everything possible – but not that ‘everything is going according to plan’».
Surovikin is not completely out of the window. He is now one of Gerasimov’s three deputies. The trio is said to also include Oleg Saliukov, the head of Russia’s land forces. Third in the group is the deputy chief of the general staff, Alexei Kim.
Rob Lee of the US think tank Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) suspects a very different political motive behind Surovikin’s demotion. “I don’t think this is because Surovikin is seen as a failure,” he tweeted. “It may have been political reasons. Prigozhin has always spoken out in favor of Surovikin. This could now be the answer to the growing influence of the Wagner group.”