Russia appoints former Chechen war, Syria commander to lead flagging Ukraine campaign


Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has appointed a new commander to the armed forces in Ukraine as Moscow looks to turn around its dwindling fortunes. 

General of the Army Sergei Surovikin will take over as Commander of the Joint Group of Russian Forces in Ukraine effective immediately, drawing on experience from the second Chechen war and campaigns in Syria and Tajikistan, Russian outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported. 

Surovikin previously held command of the Southern group in June and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2017.

His Chechen war experience, where he led the 42nd Guards Motor Rifle Division, will draw scrutiny as a campaign rife with accusations of war crimes and human rights violations and marked by its brutality. 

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Russian troops in 2004 raided a school in the rural community of Beslan after a three-day standoff with Chechen militants, with 330 of the 1,100 hostages – mostly children – killed. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Colonel General Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russian forces in Syria, attend a state awards ceremony for military personnel who served in Syria, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia December 28, 2017. 
(Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters)

And human rights organizations claimed Moscow’s warplanes in Syria deliberately targeted civilians and rescue workers during its campaign to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Ukraine invasion has already provoked similar accusations of war crimes, with 16,000 investigations opened by June alone. Ukrainian forces discovered mass graves in the cities of Bucha and Izyum after reclaiming them from Russian forces, with evidence suggesting mass executions. 

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Another incident involved Russian forces bombing a theater in Mariupol that had clearly laid out a plea to let it stand as children were inside. 

Satellite imagery captured by Maxar shows the Mariupol Drama Theater in Ukraine before and after an airstrike March 16, 2022. The word "children" can be seen in white letters.

Satellite imagery captured by Maxar shows the Mariupol Drama Theater in Ukraine before and after an airstrike March 16, 2022. The word “children” can be seen in white letters.
(Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

“Every day we see an increase [in investigations],” Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said of the cases. “We are talking about people who didn’t just come as military combatants… but also came to rape, kill civilians, loot, humiliate and so on.”

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Estonia in April accused Russia of genocide and other war crimes and urged the international community to open an investigation into the Russian military’s actions in Ukraine. 

Families wait to board a train at Kramatorsk central station as they flee the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbas region, in early April.

Families wait to board a train at Kramatorsk central station as they flee the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbas region, in early April.
(FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Estonia’s Ambassador to Ukraine Mariana Betsa called the Estonian parliament’s vote to recognize the Russian campaign as genocide a “truly historic decision” and that “Russia must bear full responsibility for its horrible crimes.” 

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Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu in September told Fox News Digital that the world “needs to see in the bench of the accused persons, Putin, together with his accomplices” face a tribunal for possible genocide. 

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