MOSCOW-. Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced the commander of the military forces that have been fighting in Ukraine since February last year on Wednesday. The position now belongs to Valeri Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Army for the last ten years. In the first months of the war, Gerasimov was criticized for the poor performance of Russian troops, but his record shows his direct intervention in notable victories during the first Russian military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.
The choice of the chief of staff to lead this military operation, an unusual practice, comes after several disappointments for the Russian forces, including defeats and heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack at the end of December. The Russian Ministry of Defense justified this appointment yesterday due to the “expansion of the scale of the missions to be carried out and the need for closer interaction between the components of the armed forces.”
A man of few words in public, Gerasimov, 67, appears regularly, serious-faced and wearing a green uniform, listening to Putin during maneuvers or meetings about military operations. Since November 2012, he has been the chief of the General Staff, the highest post in the Army behind the Defense Minister.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu describes him as “a military man to the roots of his hair” and with “colossal experience” in high command and on the ground. In effect, the general replaces Sergei Surovikin, who had been praised by Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, and by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who also sent his own army to fight in Ukraine. If Shoigu lacked military training, Gerasimov is his complement: today, for the second time, Putin once again trusts in his military capacity.
Anna Politkovskaya on the situation in Chechnya.
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“Gerasimov has built the army, he has prepared Russia for this war for ten years, and now he has to prove that he has not done that at all,” a Russian analyst who did not want to be identified told AFP, stressing that the general he was a true professional military, unlike Shoigu who comes from the civilian sector.
In her Telegram account, Russian political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann estimates that Gerasimov’s promotion is “a victory for the regular forces” of the Army in increasing competition with the “pirates” of the Wagner paramilitary group on the Ukrainian front.
Chechnya, “hybrid war”
Born in 1955 and belonging to the same generation as Putin, Gerasimov, a native of the Republic of Tatarstan, has risen through each rung of the hierarchy since his graduation from a tank school in 1977.
Commander of a motorized division between 1993 and 1995, he led the 58th Army Corps involved in the second war in Chechnya, started in 1999 by Vladimir Putin and which resulted in the reconquest of that Caucasus territory by Russia.
During that conflict, the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, assassinated in 2006, affirmed that General Gerasimov knew how to “preserve his honor as an officer” by himself arresting a Russian colonel accused of having kidnapped and murdered a Chechen woman, a case that made a lot of noise. .
French General Pierre de Villiers, himself Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces between 2014 and 2017, told the BFMTV television channel that Guerasimov, his counterpart at the time, “only recognizes one thing: the relationship of forces: not the language , not the loud voice, the relationship of forces, the real one”, he added.
In Western observer circles, Gerasimov is often described as the father of a doctrine defining “hybrid warfare,” involving conventional and unconventional forces.
If the official existence of this doctrine and the alleged role of Gerasimov are highly questioned, the Russian general assured in 2013 “a tendency towards the disappearance of the border between the state of peace and the state of war”.
“Wars are no longer declared and, once started, they do not follow a normal trajectory,” he added, underlining the important growth of “non-military means.” The following year, in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and a conflict began between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists, taking advantage of Moscow’s ex officio support, in an example according to experts of this “hybrid war.”
Cheget, the briefcase that controls the atomic bomb
The Cheget is a “nuclear briefcase” that is part of the automatic command and control system of the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces. It consists of a red button, and several white buttons, one of them located in the center. The central white button is the one that gives the order to the General Staff of the nation to take any action. The only one who can give that order is the Russian president.
There are three Chegets: in addition to the one owned by Putin, there are two others in charge of the Russian Ministry of Defense, in charge of Shoigu, and that of the chief of the General Staff, now commander, Gerasimov. Both must respond to the decision of his superior.
Offensive in Soledar
The battle for the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar is one of the bloodiest since the start of Russia’s offensive, which is being used to its fullest to score a victory after several setbacks.
Russia said Thursday that its forces are moving closer to capturing a mining town in eastern Ukraine, which would represent an elusive victory for the Kremlin, but at the cost of heavy Russian casualties and extensive destruction of the territory they claim.
For its part, Ukraine announced that its soldiers were holding out despite heavy fighting on a battlefield strewn with corpses in a mining town in eastern Ukraine, where Russian mercenaries have claimed Moscow’s first significant victory in half a year. .
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised statements that more than 100 Russian soldiers have been killed in the battle for Soledar in the last 24 hours.
“The Russians literally marched over the bodies of their own soldiers, burning everything in their path,” Kyrylenko said as she reported that Russian forces had shelled a dozen towns and villages in the region the previous day.
The ultranationalist Wagner contract militia claims to have taken Soledar after heavy fighting left the town littered with Ukrainian dead. But Moscow has not officially claimed victory.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.