After several setbacks, Russia replaces commander of its offensive in Ukraine

Russia’s military announced on Saturday the appointment of a new commander for its “special military operation” in Ukraine, after a series of bitter setbacks on the ground and signs of growing discontent among elites over the conduct of the conflict.

“Military General Sergei Surovikin has been appointed commander of the unified group of troops in the area of ​​special military operations” in Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry announced in a telegram.

55 year old Mr. Churovikhin is a veteran of the civil war in Tajikistan in the 1990s, the second war in Chechnya in the 2000s, and Russia’s intervention in Syria, which began in 2015.

Until then, he headed the “southern” forces in Ukraine, according to the statement of the Russian ministry since July.

The name of his predecessor was never officially released, but according to Russian media it was General Alexander Dvornikov, a veteran of the Second Chechen War and commander of Russian forces in Syria from 2015 to 2016.

The decision, unusually made public by Moscow, came after a series of crushing defeats suffered by the Russian military in Ukraine.

Moscow’s forces were driven out of much of northeastern Kharkiv in early September by a Ukrainian counteroffensive, allowing Kyiv to reclaim thousands of square kilometers of territory.

Russian troops lost 500 square kilometers of territory in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region and narrowly escaped encirclement in Lyman, a logistics hub now in Kyiv’s hands.

The setbacks have sparked criticism within the Russian elite, with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in particular slamming the military command, while senior parliamentarian Andriy Kartabolov has publicly called for the military to “stop lying” about its failures.

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The announcement came a day after an explosion partially destroyed the Crimean Bridge, a key infrastructure to supply the peninsula connected by Moscow and Russian forces in Ukraine, and dear to Vladimir Putin.

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