New Russian commander Sergei Surovikin brings violent Syria playbook to Ukraine
Surovikin has been described as “absolutely ruthless, with little regard for human life” and has also brought his violent Syria playbook closer to home
MOSCOW: Sergei Surovikin, the new unified Russian battlefield commander in Ukraine, has been described as "absolutely ruthless, with little regard for human life" and has also brought his violent Syria playbook closer to home, a media report said.
On Monday morning, just two days after being appointed as the first overall commander for the war in Ukraine, Surovikin ordered the launch of flurry of missiles against civilian targets across Ukraine, which included a major road junction next to a university and a children's playground, said The Guardian report.
Surovikin's "defending" of Moscow's interests in Syria involved dozens of air and ground attacks on civilian objects and infrastructure, according to a 2020 Human Rights Watch report, which said Russian forces under his command struck Syrian "homes, schools, healthcare facilities, and markets — the places where people live, work, and study".
"I am not surprised to see what happened this morning in Kiev. Surovikin is absolutely ruthless, with little regard for human life," a former defence ministry official, who has worked with Surovikin, told The Guardian. "I am afraid his hands will be completely covered in Ukrainian blood."
Surovikin first gained notoriety during the 1991 coup d'etat launched by Soviet hardliners, when he led a rifle division that drove through barricades erected by pro-democracy protesters. Three men were killed in the clash, including one who was crushed, The Guardian reported.
His ruthless reputation grew in 2004 when Russian media reported that a colonel serving under him had killed himself after he received a heated reprimand from Surovikin.
His colleagues have since given him the grim nickname "General Armageddon" for his hardline and unorthodox approach to waging war.
Surovikin's main challenge in Ukraine, experts say, will be to solve the structural problems plaguing the Russian military as it faces a fierce Ukrainian counter-offensive, The Guardian reported.
Gleb Irisov, a former air force lieutenant who worked with Surovikin up to 2020, said the new general was one of the few people in the army who "knew how to oversee and streamline different army branches".
Surovikin's appointment has, however, softened some of the public anger among Russian hardliners, who were growing increasingly impatient with the country's military failures.
From his time in Syria, he had developed a good working relationship with the Wagner private military company, said Irisov, and his appointment was welcomed by top critics of the war effort, including Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen republic, and the Wagner head, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
"Now, I am 100 per cent satisfied with the operation," Kadyrov wrote on his Telegram channel on Monday morning, referring to the shelling of Kiev, where at least six civilians were killed. (IANS)