Russian general who ran Ukraine war fired - report

One of Russia's leading military figures, Gen Sergei Surovikin, has reportedly lost his job as air force chief after weeks of speculation about his disappearance from public view.
August 23, 2023 at 19:45 Author: Editors Desk Source: France 24
SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS
SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS

Ria Novosti agency said he had been relieved of his post, citing a source. 

For several months Gen Surovikin was in charge of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine but he has not been seen since the Wagner mutiny in June.

Observers believe his removal dates back to the botched rebellion.

One Russian report quoted a defence ministry source as saying he had been dismissed because of a transfer to a new job and he was now on a short vacation.

His role as head of aerospace forces has been taken on by air force chief of staff, Gen Viktor Afzalov, Ria Novosti adds.

During the hours that Wagner mercenaries marched towards Moscow on 24 June, Gen Surovikin appeared in a video appealing to them to return to base. 

But his awkward performance was later compared to a hostage-style video. The general was known to have good relations with Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who reserved his loathing for other figures in the defence hierarchy.

In the weeks after the June revolt, there were unconfirmed reports by Russian military bloggers that Gen Surovikin had been detained for questioning. But officials denied he was being held in a pre-trial detention centre and one retired general said that he was merely "resting" and unavailable.

Gen Surovikin, a 56-year-old veteran of the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan in the 1980s, was given the nickname General Armageddon for his brutal tactics in Syria. 

As commander of Russian forces and later the air force he left much of the second city, Aleppo, in ruins and bombarded civilians in rebel-held Idlib province. He was the first army officer to head Russia's aerospace forces and had no experience in aviation.

His big promotion came in October 2022, when he was made commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, months into the flagging, full-scale invasion.

His three months in charge were not a success. On the day he was appointed, the bridge over the Kerch Strait was attacked, and weeks later he ordered a retreat from the city of Kherson. Within three months he was replaced by Russian chief of staff Valery Gerasimov, becoming one of his deputies.

Russia's military leaders have had little to boast about since President Vladimir Putin sent in the troops in February 2022 and many of the top brass have been moved to different posts.

Before Gen Surovikin was put in charge of the operation, the war effort was run by Col-Gen Gennady Zhidko. He died in Moscow last week after what officials said was a "lengthy illness".

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