War against Ukraine: Russia changes commander

Vladimir Putin has once again changed the commander-in-chief of the Russian troops in Ukraine: the Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov will replace General Sergei Surovikin, who was only appointed in October. Commentators see the comeback of the old guard in the Kremlin and fear a new major offensive in Ukraine.

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Ekaterina Schulmann (RU) /

Digging in its claws

The crumbling power apparatus is desperately trying to defend itself against upstarts, writes political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann on Facebook:

“From an outsider's perspective, what can be seen here is the victory of the regular forces against the pirates of war. ... From the perspective of the state apparatus, the defence minister and his ageing helpers are to be congratulated. As for the typology of the system, we see that the system is trying to remain what it is now - a collective bureaucracy: frightened by its rapid feralisation, the system wants to dig in its claws to avoid sliding down the crumbling slope. It does not follow that this resistance will be successful, but the intention is obvious.”

Echo (RU) /

Helpless manoeuvering in an aimless war

Commenting in a Telegram post republished by Echo, journalist Stanislav Kutscher sees nothing but another planless gesture:

“The war that was supposed to be over after three days has already lasted 323 days. The propaganda is casting the fighting around Soledar as if it were the Battle of Stalingrad. The goals of the war are not being formulated, no path to victory has been outlined. In such a context, the personnel decision seems like an impulsive, frantic attempt to somehow change the situation. ... We should not look for logic when the only reason to continue fighting is not to win, but because you fear peace more than war.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Gearing up for spring offensive

The decision points to an intensification of the conflict, fears La Repubblica:

“This is far more than a mere reshuffle. It is another reaction by Shoygu and the Kremlin to the open intolerance of the nationalists and the growing and ill-considered ambitions of [head of the Wagner mercenaries] Yevgeny Prigozhin. ... But Gerasimov's appointment is above all the latest coup in view of the forthcoming spring offensive in which the 150,000 'mobiks', the recruits mobilised and trained by Moscow in recent months, are to be deployed.”

Strana (UA) /

This means further escalation

This appointment does not bode well, Strana fears:

“The Russian leadership has dramatically raised the status of the commander of the 'special military operation'. Essentially, the entire Russian armed forces are now under his command, and enormous resources (which were not available to Surovikin) have been pooled. The Russian Telegram channels discussed, among others, the following reasons: 1. To make the leadership more effective and to avoid a dual chain of command, since the army had in fact been under the command of Gerasimov, but Surovikin was also always working alongside him. ... 2. Gerasimov's appointment is a sign that a major Russian offensive is being prepared, for which the chief of the Russian General Staff has assumed direct command.”