General Valery Gerasimov, the current Chief of the Russian General Staff, has replaced General Sergey Surovikin as the overall commander of Russian forces in Ukraine. The official message from the Russian Ministry of Defense reads:
“The Chief of the General Staff, General of the Army Valery Gerasimov, has been appointed Commander of the Joint Group of Troops (Forces). His deputies are: Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces, General of the Army Sergei Surovikin, Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces, General of the Army Oleg Salyukov, and Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Colonel Kim,” the military department said.”
The Russian Defense Ministry clarified that the decision to increase the level of leadership in Ukraine is due to “the expansion of the scale of tasks solved in the course of its implementation, the need to organize closer interaction between the types and branches of the armed forces, as well as improving the quality of all types of support and the effectiveness of command and control of groupings of troops (forces ).” This has some merit considering the entire operation in Ukraine has effectively been funneled into Donetsk. This has been the fourth change in the overall troop commander in Ukraine by the Russian Ministry of Defense, highlighting the frustration that Putin’s “three-day war” to capture Kyiv has devolved into a geopolitical nightmare for the Russian President.
This means that Surovikin has ultimately been demoted back to his original role as VKS commander and has ceded overall command of forces in Ukraine to the General Staff Chief. In September 2017, Surovikin was cited by Russian media as a likely successor to Viktor Bondarev, who was on 26 September relieved of the position of the Commander of the Aerospace Forces (VKS). In June 2022, it was revealed that he became the commander of the Army Group “South” of the Russian Armed Forces in the Southern Ukraine campaign. On 8 October, it was announced that he would be commander of all Russian forces in Ukraine, succeeding Colonel General Gennady Zhidko. He was reportedly promoted to this position due to the Russian failures during the Ukrainian counter-offensives, which began at the end of August 2022. On 18 October, Surovikin said, “The situation in the area of the ‘Special Military Operation’ can be described as tense.”
Surovikin has been cited as overly critical of his superiors, including Gerasimov. However, this change is unexpected before the conclusion of the current battles for Soledar and Bakhmut. Those battles were estimated to be the test of Surovikin’s leadership; perhaps President Putin was not pleased with how the Ukrainians were still holding on there and ordered the change in leadership.
In addition to this announcement, the Ukrainian General Staff announced that all Russian military movements are supporting the capture of Soledar and Bakhmut and there has been little change on the other fronts.