Moscow orders its top general to take charge of its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine

Valery Gerasimov
Valery Gerasimov

After months of failures on the battlefield, Russia ordered its top general to take charge of its invasion of Ukraine in the greatest shake-up yet of its military command structure.

The Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov has been named as the overall commander of troops for what Moscow refers to as its “special military operation” in Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday.

The action effectively demoted General Sergey Surovikin, known in the Russian media as “General Armageddon” for his reputed ferocity, and made Gerasimov fully responsible for the execution of the campaign.

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

After barely three months on the job, Surovikin was demoted, and he and two other generals—Oleg Salyukov and Alexey Kim—now serve as Gerasimov’s assistants.

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Days after Surovikin was appointed, the Russian army signaled a shift in strategy by launching a barrage of drone and missile assaults against Ukrainian infrastructure targets, leading to power outages and water shortages in several cities.

Surovikin was recognized for improving coordination and reinforcing control during his brief tenure as the commander of the soldiers in Ukraine.

However, in November, he announced a retreat from Kherson, one of the largest and most significant cities conquered by Russian forces during the battle. His demotion indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin was dissatisfied with his performance.