Russia has appointed a new general to lead its military efforts in Ukraine, the latest in a series of significant changes to Russia’s military leadership during the faltering invasion of its neighbor.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the defense ministry said the appointment of Valery Gerasimov represented a “raising of the status of the leadership” and was intended to “improve the quality … and effectiveness of the management of Russian forces”.
Current commander Sergei Surovikin, a controversial general dubbed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media and appointed as the army’s overall commander in October, will remain as Gerasimov’s deputy, according to the statement.
Gerasimov, along with the defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, has been harshly criticized by Russia’s hawkish military bloggers for several losses on the battlefield and Moscow’s inability to clinch victory in a war that the Kremlin had anticipated would be quick.
The new leadership move comes amid continued conflicts between senior authorities in charge of the Russian campaign in Ukraine.
On Tuesday evening, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group in Russia, Yevgeny Prigozhin, bragged that his combat experience was “in many ways significantly superior to those who have served for decades in the ministry of defence.”
Prigozhin, who has previously criticized Gerasimov and Shoigu, made these assertions as he asserted that his Wagner force had seized control of the little salt-mining town of Soledar.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, dismissed the claims in a video address, stating that conflict was still ongoing.
Zelensky stated in his daily presentation, “The terrorist state and its propagandists are attempting to pretend that they have achieved some successes in Soledar, but the fighting continues.”