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Who is ‘General Armageddon?’ The new commander leading Russia’s forces in Ukraine is reportedly a proponent of targeting civilian infrastructure
On October 8, the same day a large explosion hit the bridge connecting Crimea and Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that General Sergey Surovikin had been appointed the new commander of Russia's forces in Ukraine. The announcement marks the first time an individual has been officially declared to be in charge of the war effort; previously, only the commanders leading specific groups of forces were named publicly by the ministry. Surovikin, who Russian media has referred to as "General Armageddon" for his ability to act "brutally" in war, first made headlines during the failed 1991 Soviet coup, when three protesters were killed under his command. A summary of what we know about the new leader of Russia's troops in Ukraine.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has appointed a new commander to lead Russia’s forces in Ukraine: General Sergey Surovikin. In 2017, Surovikin was made the Commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces, and since the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine, he’s led Russia’s “South” group of forces, which captured the city of Sievierodonetsk.
This is the first time the Russian Defense Ministry has publicly announced the appointment of a commander to lead all of the country’s invading forces in Ukraine. Until Surovikin’s appointment, only the names of commanders of various military groupings were released publicly, while the only information about the people making the decisions guiding the Russian army as a whole came from sources speaking to journalists. In April, BBC News reported that General Alexander Dvornikov, the head of Russia’s Southern Military District, had been put in control of the country’s war effort in Ukraine. Later, a group of independent investigators from the Conflict Intelligence Team, citing a source, reported that Deputy Defense Minister Gennady Zhidko had replaced Dvornikov as the leader of Russia’s troops.
Sources told Meduza months ago that Surovikin was expecting a promotion. A source close to the Putin administration and a source close to the Russian government said that there was talk of Surovikin being given either a key post in the Russian Defense Ministry or a being put in charge of Russia’s forces in the Donbas.
As both Russian and Ukrainian Telegram channels have pointed out, Surovikin’s appointment comes amid a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive, which liberated Lyman, a city in the Donetsk region, in October as well as forcing Russian troops to flee the northern part of the Kherson region.
Surovikin’s name might sound familiar to people old enough to remember the failed 1991 Soviet coup. Now 55 years old, Surovikin once served in the Soviet special forces, including in Afghanistan. During the 1991 coup attempt, the then-24-year-old was in charge of the 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division, which tried to break through the barricades at the intersection of Moscow’s Garden Ring and Novy Arbat Avenue. Three protesters were killed in the clashes: Dmitry Komar, Ilya Krichevsky, and Vladimir Usov. After the coup plotters’ swift defeat, the three men were posthumously named Heroes of the Soviet Union. Surovikin spent several months in custody, but the charges against him were ultimately lifted (the Moscow Prosecutor's Office determined that he had been “carrying out the orders of his command”).
Wagner PMC founder Evgeny Prigozhin (whose forces have played an active role in Russia’s war against Ukraine, and who has repeatedly criticized the leadership of Russia’s Defense Ministry) responded to the news of Surovikin’s appointment by harkening back to his role in the coup attempt. “After receiving orders,” Prigozhin said, Surovikin “got in his tank without hesitation and rushed to save his country.”
Sergey Surovikin later took part in the armed conflict that rocked Tajikistan in the early 1990s and in the Second Chechen War. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wrote on Saturday that he’s known Surovikin well for almost 15 years, adding that “the united group of forces is now in good hands” and that he’s confident Surovikin will “make things right” at the front.
Surovikin also led Russian troops in Syria. Surovikin was appointed a commander of Russian forces in Syria in May 2017. In October of that year, he was put in charge of the Russian Aerospace Forces, and that December, he was named a Hero of Russia for the operation he led in Syria. In August 2021, Surovikin was promoted to the rank of general — the highest rank held by any officer currently serving in Russia’s military.
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According to a source close to the Kremlin and a source close to the Russian government, Surovikin is a proponent of launching wide-scale missile strikes on infrastructure, including civilian infrastructure. “Surovikin is not sentimental,” one of them noted. Russian pro-government media has reported that Surovikin is known in the Russian army as “General Armageddon” — ”for his ability to act unconventionally and brutally.”
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