Russia has appointed a infamous normal who opened hearth on pro-democracy protesters within the Nineties as its first total commander for the struggle in Ukraine, because the Kremlin struggles to halt a Ukrainian counteroffensive that has left its forces in disarray.
The appointment of Gen Sergei Surovikin got here on the identical day as Vladimir Putin was dealt a humiliating blow after an explosion on the Kerch bridge sank a piece of the motorway into the Kerch Strait and precipitated a significant hearth on the railway.
Surovikin is a veteran commander who led the Russian army expedition in Syria in 2017, the place he was accused of utilizing “controversial” techniques together with indiscriminate bombing in opposition to anti-government fighters.
His appointment is the primary of an total battlefield commander for Russian troops in Ukraine. It could point out that Moscow now understands that its army is in peril of collapse in Ukraine, with Kyiv’s forces advancing in all 4 of the areas that Putin claims to have “annexed”.
A former head of the Russian Aerospace Forces, Surovikin was put in in the summertime as head of the southern army grouping, changing Gen Alexander Dvornikov, who lasted simply months within the place.
He’s seen as having improved the effectiveness of Russian forces combating in east Ukraine, the place poor communication and cooperation has plagued the Russian invasion pressure.
But Surovikin additionally has a checkered historical past that features two stints in jail for allegedly promoting weapons and for main a army column in opposition to protesters throughout the 1991 coup. He has additionally beforehand served in Tajikistan and Chechnya.
“For over 30 years, Surovikin’s profession has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality,” wrote British intelligence officers in a current report on Surovikin’s probably promotion to guide the southern army group.
Throughout the 1991 coup d’état try launched by Soviet hardliners, Surovikin, then a captain, led a rifle division that drove by means of barricades erected by pro-democracy protesters. Three males have been killed within the conflict, together with one who was crushed.
“It’s extremely symbolic that Sergei Surovikin, the one officer who ordered to shoot on revolutionaries in August 1991 and really killed three individuals, is now in command of this last-ditch effort to revive Soviet Union,” wrote Grigory Yudin, a Russian political scientist and sociologist. “These individuals knew what they have been doing, they usually know now.”
With the appointment, the Kremlin can also be looking for to fight criticism from nationalists who’ve accused the military of mismanaging the struggle in Ukraine and of failing to make use of harsh techniques to attempt to pressure the Kyiv authorities to submit.
Amongst Russians who welcomed the appointment of Surovikin was Yevgeny Prigozhin, the infamous founding father of the Wagner non-public army firm and a vocal critic of the army management.
“Surovikin is essentially the most in a position commander within the Russian military,” Prigozhin mentioned, in line with a press release put out by Harmony, an organization he’s related to. He’s a “legendary determine, he was born to serve his motherland faithfully.”
“Having acquired an order [in 1991], Surovikin was that officer who with out hesitation received in his tank and went ahead to avoid wasting his nation.”