Russia’s top general is in charge of the Russian forces in Ukraine
The Russian Defense Ministry said that Russian Defense Sergei Shoigu had appointed the Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov as commander-in-chief of the Russian forces in the special military operation in Ukraine.
This decision not only made Gerasimov directly responsible for the fate of the operation, but also in fact demoted General Sergey Surovikin, whom the Russian media dubbed “General Armageddon” due to his reputation for being ruthless.
The Russian Defense Ministry statement said that a reshuffle of commanders has been made, aimed at improving communications between the various branches of the military and the quality and effectiveness of the command structure.
In feedback of appointing General Gerasimov, the decision didn’t impress Russian pro-war commentators.
“The whole thing doesn’t change just by changing the places of its parts,” wrote a prominent military blogger who uses the Telegram under the name Raibar.
He said Surovikin, a veteran of Russia’s campaigns in Chechnya and Syria, was the scapegoat in a series of recent Russian military setbacks, including a Ukrainian attack on a Russian barracks in the town of Makevka that killed at least 89 soldiers on New Year’s Day.
Sorovikin was chosen only last October to become Russia’s top battlefield commander after Ukrainian attacks turned the tide of the war and drew attention to poor training, equipment and morale among Russian forces.
Soledar would become a stepping stone in Moscow’s drive to seize the entire eastern industrial region of Donbas.
Before Wagner’s statement, the Kremlin refrained from declaring victory and admitted heavy losses.
“Let’s not rush, let’s wait for the official data… There is a positive movement under way,” the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Still it’s impossible to independently verify the situation at Soledar front, as Reuters photographer who arrived in the suburbs of Soledar in recent days said that a large number of residents fled on the roads outside the town in the bitter cold.
The smoke could be seen rising over the town, that artillery fire was continuing unabated, and that ambulances were waiting to receive the wounded on the road from Soledar to Bakhmut.
Russia targeted Soledar as a launching pad for attacking the nearby city of Bakhmut, which has held out for months against a Russian attack and is a hub for supply lines in eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s state media agency said earlier that Wagner had captured the salt mines at Soledar, and a photo on the group’s Telegram channel appears to show Prigozhin and his fighters inside one of the mines.
Denis Pushilin, the leader of the Russian-controlled part of Donetsk, said control of Soledar would allow the capture of more important towns further west in what Russia recognizes as the Donetsk People’s Republic, a center for Ukrainian heavy industry and one of four regions annexed by Moscow.