Russia has again replaced its top commander in Ukraine and put army chief of staff Valery Gerasimov in charge of its forces in the conflict, the defense ministry said on Wednesday.
“Army General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, has been appointed commander of the Joint Grouping of Troops (Forces),” the ministry said.
Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russian forces in Ukraine for the past three months, will be Gerasimov’s deputy.
Surovikin will work with two other generals, Oleg Salyukov and Alexei Kim, according to the statement.
“The increase in the leadership level of the special operation is related to the expansion of the scope of tasks at hand and the need to organize closer interaction between forces,” the ministry said.
One of Russia’s main Telegram channels in support of the offensive, Rybar, was skeptical about whether the switch could help Moscow’s troops show more of the protracted operation.
“Moving components doesn’t change the total sum,” Rybar told the messaging app Telegram, adding “we want to believe in a miracle in the 11th month of the special operation.”
Surovikin, an army veteran with a reputation for ruthlessness, was tasked in October with turning the tide in Ukraine as the Russian military suffered a series of battlefield defeats.
Two days after Surovikin’s appointment, the Russian military signaled a strategic change by unleashing a wave of drone and missile strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure targets, causing power and water outages in several cities.
About a month after his appointment, Russia withdrew from the southern city of Kherson, the only regional capital it held.
Since then, the frontline has stabilized worldwide.
Moscow’s troops are also leading a long and bloody battle in the east around Bakhmut and Soledar, where the situation was unclear on Wednesday.
The Russian mercenary group Wagner claimed control of the gateway city of Soledar, while the Kremlin warned against prematurely declaring victory.
Rybar said Surovikin’s results were “controversial” and that any immediate successes – including a possible victory at Soledar – would now be credited to “the new old commander” Gerasimov.
“Only time will tell” whether the “unsinkable” General Gerasimov would also be demoted if Russia suffered further setbacks, he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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