Ukraine – Russia’s war: who is Sergey Surovikin, the general accused of destroying Aleppo and commander of the Russian offensive in Ukraine?
- BBC News World
The appointment of Sergey Surovikin to lead Russia’s assault on Ukraine was made by Vladimir Putin after the destruction of the Crimean Bridge, an incident the Kremlin called an “act of terrorism”.
This weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin put one of his best men in charge of the war in Ukraine.
Sergey Surovikin, a Russian army general, was appointed “commander of a joint force group in a special military operations zone” on Saturday, the name Russia gave to its neighbor’s invasion.
With this decision, Moscow gave an overview of its war strategy, hours after the partial collapse of the Crimean bridge, in the early hours of last Saturday, when a truck exploded, burning seven fuel tanks.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the incident.
On Monday, Russia attacked Kyiv with missiles after months without approaching the Ukrainian capital.
Putin said it was a response to an “act of terrorism” which he blamed on the government of Volodymyr Zelensky.
It was also Vladimir Putin’s response to the hawks in his own camp, who were increasingly uncomfortable with Russia’s defeat in the war. The eagle is calling for tougher action, analyzes BBC Eastern Europe correspondent Sarah Rainsford.
Kremlin officials and TV presenters, sad and sad days ago, now applaud this attack on their neighbors, even jubilant and dancing in social media posts as Ukraine mourns his death and crawls through the rubble of the multiple attacks.
Originally from Siberia, Mr Surovikin is 56 years old and has had a meteoric rise in military career. He fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Tajikistan and Syria. He carried a reputation for being ruthless and brutal, although Russia described him as a “tough and demanding military leader”.
In Chechnya, his public pledge to “destroy three militants for every soldier killed” was widely reported, according to Russian news agency TASS.
Before being appointed as army general in August 2021, Pak Surovikin took part in the war in Syria.
He led Russian forces there and, according to TASS, controlled large swaths of territory, major transport routes and oil fields, among other things, as of March 2017.
In November 2017, he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Russian Air Force. In this position, he was responsible for destroying, from the air, most of the Syrian city of Aleppo.
And a month later he was decorated by Putin, who awarded him the title of Hero of the Russian Federation “for the courage and heroism he showed in the discharge of his military duty in the Syrian Arab Republic”.
The general’s record also includes the killing of pro-democracy protesters in Moscow in 1991 during an attempted coup. He is described as a cruel man.
The military officer was arrested at the time, but Russian President Boris Yeltsin later ordered his release, according to TASS.
Mr Surovikin already headed the ‘South’ troop group in Ukraine earlier this year and, according to BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner, it was not clear what difference his appointment would make.
In Ukraine, Russia is facing a real army, equipped and trained by NATO countries, and Russia has lost ground and prestige.
The Kremlin lost several generals killed at the front and others sacked for incompetence.
And hardliners in Moscow are calling for a more aggressive approach to achieving their goal of bringing Ukraine into submission.
The Crimean Bridge incident increased Russian disillusionment with the evolution of the war.
Mr Surovikin’s appointment to head troops in Ukraine is “a concession made by Mr Putin to hardliners”, according to Rainsford.
They have long called for an attack on civilian infrastructure: freezing the Ukrainian people to submission to this northern winter, if their army cannot be defeated on the battlefield.
“When are we going to start fighting?” asked the propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, arguing that it is better to be feared than laughed at.
Grigory Yudin of the Moscow School of Economics and Social Sciences described Monday’s massive bombing as a “desperate act” aimed primarily at solving Putin’s domestic problems.
The Russian leader appears to subscribe to the hawkish idea of ”scare the opponent to death” to make him surrender, Yudin wrote on Twitter.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, once seen as a liberal, warned the attacks would be “only the first episode”, with more to follow.
“It is clear that his troops are currently spread out over too many fronts. If Mr Surovikin is considering a radical challenge, he may decide to concentrate in one area and apply overwhelming force,” Gardner analyzed.