Russia appoints Gerasimov as top commander in Ukraine

Russia appoints Gerasimov as top commander in Ukraine
Russian military top brass are looking for someone to turn their floundering campaign around.
2 min read
Valery Gerasimov has served at Vladimir Putin's side for many years [Getty images]

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu appointed Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov on Wednesday to oversee Russia's disastrous invasion of Ukraine in the latest shake-up of Moscow's military leadership.

Shoigu appointed Gerasimov as commander of the combined forces group for Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Russia had promoted Sergey Surovikin, nicknamed "General Armageddon" by the Russian media for his reputed ruthlessness, to be its top battlefield commander only last October following a series of Ukrainian counter-offensives that turned the tide of the conflict.

In the four months as commander, Surovikin failed to seize a single major Ukrainian town in the face of fierce fightbacks. 

Surovikin will remain as a deputy of Gerasimov, the defence ministry said.

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It said the changes were designed to increase the effectiveness of managing military operations in Ukraine, more than 10 months into the floundering campaign.

Gerasimov, like Shoigu, has faced sharp criticism from pro-war military bloggers for Russia's multiple setbacks on the battlefield and failure to secure victory in a campaign the Kremlin had hubristically expected to take just a short time.

Both men were reportedly involved in planning the war's catastrophic early stages. 

Russian and Ukrainian forces were engaged in intense fighting on Wednesday over the town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, a stepping stone in Moscow's push to capture the entire Donbas region. The Russians appeared to have the upper hand while heavy fighting is still ongoing. 

Reporting by Reuters