Putin appoints ‘controversial’ new general in Ukraine

Russia: Putin 'considering the nuclear option' says Yatsenyuk

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Russia has appointed a notorious general as its first overall commander for the war in Ukraine. Sergei Surovikin, 55, was born in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and graduated from the Omsk Higher Combined-Arms Command School in 1987 according to the Russian Ministry of Defence website.

During the attempted August 1991 coup launched by the Communist Party and KGB hardliners, Mr Surovikin, then a captain, led a rifle division that drove through barricades erected by pro-democracy protesters.

As a result three men were killed including one who was crushed.

Mr Surovikin, who served in Tajikistan and Chechnya, was also involved in controversy in Syria where he led the Russian military intervention in 2017.

The veteran commander and former head of the Russian Aerospace Forces was accused of “controversial” tactics which included the indiscriminate bombing of Syrian fighters opposed to Bashar Al-Assad’s government in Damascus.

His appointment comes on the same day as the Kremlin was dealt a major blow after a huge explosion severely damaged Kerch Bridge, linking mainland Russia with the Moscow controlled Crimea region.

Mr Surovikin’s appointment may indicate that the Kremlin is aware that its military is in danger of collapse in Ukraine following a series of setbacks, including surprise attacks in Crimea and the loss of territory in the Donbas region.

Moscow may also be attempting to placate criticism from hardline nationalists who have argued that the military have mismanaged the war effort in Ukraine and failed to use extreme measures to force Kyiv to surrender.

Mr Surovikin was appointed to head the southern military grouping in the summer, replacing General Alexander Dvornikov, who lasted just months in the position.

He is seen as having improved the effectiveness of Russian forces fighting in eastern Ukraine in contrast to the perceived ineptitude of many of Moscow’s officers during the conflict.

For example he was credited with improving the situation in relation to communication and cooperation that have plagued Russian forces in the region.

However his appointment has prompted a mixed response from military experts and pundits.

Grigory Yudin, a Russian political scientist and sociologist said that Mr Surovikin’s appointment was “symbolic” as he would be engaged in a “last ditch” effort to restore the Soviet Union.

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He said: “It is highly symbolic that Sergei Surovikin, the only officer who ordered to shoot on revolutionaries in August 1991 and actually killed three people, is now in charge of this last-ditch effort to restore Soviet Union.

“These people knew what they were doing, and they know now.”

British intelligence officials in a recent report. “For over 30 years, Surovikin’s career has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality.”

However Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the notorious Wagner private military company and a critic of the military leadership, welcomed the move.

He said: “Surovikin is the most able commander in the Russian army.

“He was born to serve his motherland faithfully.

“Having received an order [in 1991], Surovikin was that officer who without hesitation got in his tank and went forward to save his country.”

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