Russian Army General Sergei Surovikin has been appointed commander of the joint grouping of Russian troops, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday, Oct. 8.

Surovikin’s first day of work was marked by a barrage of missiles. He is now in charge of Russia’s war effort. Human rights activists and the British military have long spoken of his particular brand of cruelty.

Surovikin’s appointment was welcomed by Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, along with Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin.

From the beginning of Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, Surovikin led the “South” group of Russian forces, which took control of Severodonetsk. According to top sources, it is understood that Surovikin was anticipating a promotion.

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The appointment of an overall commander of Russia’s invading forces in Ukraine has never before been made publicly announced by the Russian Defense Ministry.

Prior to Surovikin’s appointment, the only public information about individuals making decisions affecting the Russian army as a whole came from sources speaking to journalists. Only the names of commanders of specific military groupings were made public.

General Alexander Dvornikov – dubbed the “Syrian Butcher” – was previously tasked with leading the nation’s war effort in Ukraine, according to a BBC News report in April. It is understood he was replaced by General Gennady Zhidko, former commander of the Eastern Military District, as cited by a team of independent investigators from the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT).

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There is discussion of Surovikin being given either a key position in the Russian Defense Ministry or being put in charge of Russia’s forces in the Donbas, according to a top aide close to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration and the Russian government.

Surovikin’s appointment coincides with an efficient Ukrainian military campaign that recaptured Lyman, a city in the Donetsk region, in October and resulted in Russian troops being forced to leave the northern part of Kherson region, as both Russian and Ukrainian Telegram channels noted.

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Background

Surovikin, aged 55, previously worked in Afghanistan with the Soviet Union’s special forces. In 1991, aged 24, he was put in charge of the 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division during the failed coup attempt when they tried to scale the barriers at the junction of Novy Arbat Avenue and Moscow’s Garden Ring.

Surovikin actively participated in the Second Chechen War as well as military action that shook Tajikistan in the early 1990s.

Kadyrov, in a letter dated Oct. 8, said that he has known Surovikin for nearly 15 years, that “the united group of forces is now in good hands” and that he is convinced Surovikin will “make things right” at the front.

In May 2017, Surovikin was selected to lead Russian troops in Syria, and was appointed commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces in October of the same year. For the Syria operation, he was honored with the title “Hero of Russia.” This is despite reports of Surovikin targeting homes, schools, healthcare facilities, and markets as part of operations in the country.

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Surovikin received a promotion to general status in August 2021, making him the highest-ranking officer in the Russian military at the time.

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