Putin replacing overall commander in Ukraine war could signal Russia is prepared for the 'long haul' – Sky News

The commander of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, has been replaced by the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, in what could be a way of President Vladimir Putin putting the head of the Wagner mercenary group in his place.
Moscow correspondent
Thursday 12 January 2023 14:44, UK
Replacing Sergei Surovikin with the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, feels a little like President Putin is trying to consolidate the Ministry of Defence’s hold over an operation whose most recent successes – if Soledar can be counted as that – have been driven by freelancers, such as Yevgeny Prigozhin and his band of Wagner mercenaries.
Prigozhin had good words to say about Surovikin.
But Gerasimov and Prigozhin will not have that kind of pally rapport.
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Could this be a way of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and ultimately, let’s face it, President Putin, putting Prigozhin in his place?
Keeping him at arm’s length – after all those triumphant videos Prigozhin posted of himself in the trenches and salt mines around Bakhmut – lest he get too buoyed by his successes and forget who’s ultimately in command?
It may be a way of signalling, too, that Russia is in this for the long haul and now heralds a new, concerted phase in the war, an ‘expansion of the scale of tasks’ as the Ministry of Defence put it.
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Less about what Surovikin failed to achieve and more about putting the ‘special military operation’ under the most senior leadership.
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Surovikin had a tricky mandate. He had to take the fall for the retreat from Kherson even though it was a situation he inherited.
Russian troops then essentially consolidated their positions for the winter with Wagner doing a lot of the offensive work around Bakhmut.
Surovikin can hardly be charged with having ‘failed’ in his short tenure.
Rather, appointing Gerasimov as head of operations in Ukraine may simply suggest that now begins a new phase, a tandem approach of the top army personnel, Gerasimov with Surovikin as his deputy.
Probably not a role Gerasimov will relish given the difficulty of pulling off anything game-changing any time soon.
Plus this will require his full attention, so who will take on his other responsibilities?
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Questions still unanswered.
But if this is about slapping anyone down, it seems to be about Prigozhin not Surovikin.
And it leaves Gerasimov, who alongside Shoigu and Putin dreamt up the ‘special military operation’ in the first place, with quite the task on his hands.
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