Russian President Vladimir Putin has demoted the commander who leads his troops in Ukraine to a deputy post after serving just three months in the top post, Russia’s defense ministry said Wednesday.
Gene. Valery Gerasimov will take over from Sergei Surovikin after the former commander took sole charge of the brutal campaign in October — a move Moscow says is an attempt to diversify roles and widen lines of communication.
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Surovikin will now serve alongside Army General Oleg Salyukov and Colonel General Alexey Kim as deputies in a new “joint group” that will work to organize “closer cooperation between the types and branches of the armed forces,” Ukrainian news outlet Pravda said. .
The news followed directives issued by Putin in December when he called on his top men to work more closely with regional chiefs in occupied territories of Ukraine to better equip troops and address specific needs based on those lines of communication.
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Surovikin, championed by Moscow for his military successes during the Second Chechen War and in Syria, was appointed after Russia lost Kharkiv when Ukrainian troops withdrew.
Under Surovikin, Russia launched a massive air campaign against Ukrainian civilians and targeted the country’s energy infrastructure — a tactic that Western defense officials say Russia could not sustain and has recently failed.
The Russian withdrawal from Kherson and subsequent losses and stalled efforts in Donetsk also followed under Surovikin, despite fierce ground warfare in areas such as Bakhmut and most recently Soledar.
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Kiev has been sounding the alarm for weeks that Russia is planning a major offensive in an attempt to “turn the tide” in Ukraine and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday urged member states to send more “essential” military aid to help everything Russia needs. plan is to counter .
Neither NATO officials nor the US have described what Russia may be up to, though Ukraine has claimed its intelligence services believe another round of mass conscription is imminent as Russia seeks to make a profit in Ukraine.