London: Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered yet another shake-up of his war cabinet, demoting the head of his forces in Ukraine after only three months on the job, the media reported.
General Sergei Surovikin, who earned the fearsome nickname ‘General Armageddon’ for employing brutal tactics during Russia’s intervention in Syria, was named as Russia’s overall military commander on October 8.
Putin on Wednesday replaced Surovikin with General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s chief of the general staff who was seen by many as the top architect of the invasion. But critics have already blamed him for Moscow’s military setbacks.
Putin also humiliated one of his deputy prime ministers on a video conference call, blasting the official for failing to procure civilian and military planes and accusing him of “fooling around”, Daily Mail reported.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said promoting Gerasimov above Surovikin is ‘an indicator of the increasing seriousness of the situation Russia is facing, and a clear acknowledgement that the campaign is falling short of Russia’s strategic goals.’
The MoD added in a tweet that Russian ultra-nationalists and military bloggers critical of Gerasimov are likely to greet the news with ‘extreme displeasure’, Daily Mail reported.
The Russian Defence Ministry’s formal explanation for the reshuffle was that expanded military tasks and the need for ‘closer interaction between branches of the military as well as increasing the quality of supplies and the efficiency of directing groups of forces’ prompted the leadership changes.
The move appeared to buttress Gerasimov’s standing with Putin amid growing resentment and dissent in the army. Gerasimov is seen as a loyalist with no political ambitions, and is likely to side with Putin on any strategic decisions – likely the reason for his promotion.
Surovikin, meanwhile, was made deputy in an announcement made not by Putin, but by defence minister Sergei Shoigu, who has also been widely criticised for his bungling of Moscow’s operations, Daily Mail reported.