After months of defeats on the battlefield, Russia gave it’s top general the order to lead its invasion of Ukraine. This was the biggest shakeup of its military command structure yet.

On Wednesday, the Russian defense ministry announced that Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov had been appointed as the overall commander of forces for what Moscow refers to as its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The move not only made Gerasimov directly responsible for the campaign’s outcome, but it also effectively downgraded General Sergey Surovikin, who was dubbed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media for his alleged brutality.

Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov attends a forum in Moscow last August [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

A ministry statement stated, “The need to organize closer contact between different branches of the armed forces, and improve the quality… and effectiveness of the management of Russian forces.” “The increase in the level of leadership of the special military operation is connected with the expansion in the scale of tasks.”

After only three months in the position, Surovikin was demoted, and along with two other generals, Oleg Salyukov and Alexey Kim, he becomes Gerasimov’s deputy.

In the days following Surovikin’s nomination, the Russian army launched a series of drone and missile attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure targets, resulting in power outages and water shortages in several cities.

Surovikin was credited with improving control and coordination during his brief time supervising Ukrainian troops.

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‘War is getting bigger’

The move was made, according to Moscow-based political analyst Dmitry Trenin, to “streamline the chain of command in the Ukraine operation.”

“The appointment of Gerasimov indicates that the operation’s importance has increased and that its scope may extend beyond what we currently see. That really matters a lot, “Trenin told Al Jazeera.

“I believe this is above the level of a field commander, the war is getting bigger and more dangerous. The overall commander of the Russian armed forces now has control of this.

The pro-war Russian commentators were unimpressed.

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One well-known military blogger who writes under the name Rybar and makes posts on the Telegram messaging app stated, “The sum does not change just by changing the places of its parts.”

He claimed that Surovikin, a veteran of Russian operations in Syria and Chechnya, was being blamed for a number of recent military mishaps, such as a Ukrainian attack on a Russian barracks in the town of Makiivka that resulted in the deaths of at least 89 Russian soldiers, including conscripts, during the New Year’s holiday.

After a series of Ukrainian offensives that turned the tide of the war and brought attention to poor Russian forces’ training, equipment, and morale, Surovikin was appointed Russia’s top battlefield commander in Ukraine only last October.

However, he also made the announcement in November that he would be leaving Kherson, one of the largest and most significant cities that Russian forces had taken during the conflict. The fact that he was demoted indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin was dissatisfied with his work.





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