- Gerasimov will lead the military campaign in Ukraine
- The latest reshuffle follows more setbacks on the battlefield
- Gerasimov is a target of Russian pro-war critics
Jan 11 (Reuters) – Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday appointed Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov to oversee the military campaign in Ukraine, in the latest shake-up of Moscow’s military leadership.
Gerasimov, like Shoigu, has faced sharp criticism from Russia’s hawkish war bloggers for multiple battlefield setbacks and Moscow’s failure to secure victory in a campaign the Kremlin expected would take a very short time.
In a statement, the defense ministry said Shoigu had appointed Gerasimov as commander of the combined forces group for the “special military operation” in Ukraine. This is the highest position among Russian combat generals.
It was only last October that Russia appointed Sergei Surovikin, dubbed by the Russian media “General Armageddon” for his notorious ruthlessness, as the general in charge of operations in Ukraine after a series of counter-offensives by Ukrainian forces that turned the tide of the conflict.
Surovikin will now remain Gerasimov’s deputy, the Ministry of Defense announced.
The changes are intended to increase the effectiveness of military operations in Ukraine, it said, more than 10 months into a campaign that has killed tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides, as well as Ukrainian civilians.
“Raising the level of leadership of the special military operation is connected with the expansion of the scale of tasks … the need to organize closer contact between different types of armed forces and improve the quality … and the effectiveness of management of the Russian forces”, said the ministry’s announcement.
Russian pro-war commentators were not impressed.
“The sum doesn’t change just by changing the locations of its parts,” wrote one prominent military blogger who posts on the Telegram messaging app under the name Rybar.
He said Surovikin, a veteran of Russia’s campaigns in Chechnya and Syria, had been made a foil for a series of recent Russian military failures, including a Ukrainian attack on Russian barracks in the town of Makeevka that killed at least 89 Russian soldiers, including conscripts. on New Year’s.
Military analyst Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said on Twitter that Gerasimov’s appointment reaffirmed the Defense Department’s stance on the conduct of the war.
“I don’t think it’s because Surovikin is seen as a failure. It is certainly possible that this was driven by political reasons. As the joint commander in Ukraine, Surovikin was becoming very powerful and probably bypassed Shoigu/Gerasimov when talking to Putin,” Lee said.
Political analyst Abbas Galyamov noted on Telegram that the move followed the transfer of another senior general, Alexander Lapinfor the role of chief of ground forces on Tuesday.
All this moving of the same persons from one chair to another, in the midst of hostilities, can say what you want, but not that “everything is going according to plan”, Galyamov said.
Russian and Ukrainian forces were engaged in intense fighting on Wednesday over the town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, a springboard in Moscow’s bid to seize the entire Donbas region. It turned out that the Russians had the upper hand.
Reporting by Reuters Editing by Gareth Jones
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