‘General Armageddon’: Who Is The Brutal Russian Commander Charged With Winning The Ukraine War?  


Just after midnight on August 21, 1991, a column of armored personnel carriers manned by soldiers from a unit of Russia’s 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division, a storied force known as the Taman Guards, rumbled into a central Moscow tunnel, where it was met by protesters angered over an attempted coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The protesters had barricaded the road with buses and street-cleaning vehicles, and in the chaos that ensued, three of them were killed. Ultimately, the column retreated. The clash was a turning point in the coup, which collapsed the next day. The man who commanded the unit was Captain Sergei Surovikin, 24, a mid-ranking officer who was briefly arrested for his orders but later cleared. Surovikin went on to a long career in Russia’s military, where he was repeatedly promoted and gained a reputation for unalloyed brutality in Chechnya and, more recently, in Syria. On October 8, President Vladimir Putin appointed the much-decorated Surovikin, who is now 56, as the overall commander of Russia’s flagging war on Ukraine. Two days later, Russia unleashed the largest barrage of missiles and air strikes since the invasion in February, pushing the war into a potentially even deadlier new phase – with Surovikin in charge. “For Ukraine, I’d worry a lot about Surovikin’s absolutely unforgiving attitude to the enemy — seen as combatants and civilians alike — and his laser-like focus on achieving military progress no matter the cost or risk,” said Charles Lister, who is director of the Syria program at the U.S.-based Middle East Institute and followed Surovikin’s earlier command of Russian forces in Syria.

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