Russia's Struggling Military Turns to General With a Temper

Sergei Surovikin has a reputation, analysts say
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2022 10:50 AM CDT
Russia's Struggling Military Turns to General With a Temper
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, applauds Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin during an awards ceremony for troops who fought in Syria in 2017 in Moscow.   (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

With its failures in the Ukraine fight mounting, and public criticism along with them, Russia's military has selected a new commander. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, 55, who's been in charge of the operation in the southern district, will be in charge of all Russian forces in Ukraine, the Defense Ministry announced Saturday. Western military analysts said Surovikin brings a reputation for brutality and corruption, among other things, the New York Times reports. "He is known as a pretty ruthless commander who is short with subordinates and is known for his temper," said Michael Kofman of CNA, a defense research institute in Virginia.

It's the first time since Russia invaded in February that one person has been entrusted with the battle, per NBC News. Surovikin, who's also head of the air force, had led Russian forces in Syria, where Russian bombing of the city of Aleppo exacted a heavy toll on civilians. Human Rights Watch has said he might share command responsibility for human rights violations there. Surovikin is reported by a think tank to have done at least six months in prison after his troops killed three protesters in Moscow in 1991, though he never stood trial.

The promotion was publicly endorsed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who founded the Wagner mercenary group. "Surovikin is the most competent commander in the Russian army," Prigozhin said in a statement. After recent high-profile losses, which have led in Russia to second-guessing of the military if not President Vladimir Putin, an American cautioned that turning the operation around will defy a single fix. "That is not going to solve all their problems," Frederick Hodges, who was a top Army commander in Europe, said of Surovikin's appointment. "All the problems are institutional, deeply rooted flaws—corruption, lack of readiness." (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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