Russia’s war in Ukraine is under new management.
Moscow’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday it had placed General of the Army Valery Gerasimov in command over the Kremlin’s faltering Ukrainian invasion.
The change in leadership is due to “the need to organize closer interaction between the types and branches of the armed forces,” the ministry said in a statement.
Gerasimov will replace Russian Air Force General Sergei Surovikin, who was given command in October.
Gerasimov’s appointment comes as Russia claims its first victory — however pyrrhic — in months: the capture of much of the salt-mining town of Soledar on the outskirts of Bakhmut in the Donetsk province.
That victory was reportedly won by Russian paramilitaries fighting under the banner of the quasi-state Wagner Group, not regular Russian military forces.
A Kremlin insider reportedly involved in the planning stages of the February invasion, Gerasimov is known as a proponent of “hybrid warfare” — the belief that wars should be fought in political, economic and informational spaces as well as the physical battleground.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has described Gerasimov as “a military man to the roots of [his] hair,” the Financial Times reported in 2017.
Born to a working-class family in the central Russian city of Kazan, Gerasimov studied Tank Warfare upon joining the Russian military.
He commanded units in combat in Chechnya, and is believed to have been involved in the fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas region during Russia’s 2014 annexation attempts.