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27 Oct, 2023 17:46

Russia appoints replacement for controversial sacked general

The country's air force officially has a new commander, Viktor Afzalov
Russia appoints replacement for controversial sacked general

Lieutenant-General Viktor Afzalov has been confirmed as the new head of the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Defense Ministry in Moscow announced on Friday. He had stepped in as acting commander when Sergey Surovikin, the general who masterminded the defense of Zaporozhye and Kherson, was relieved after the Wagner mutiny.

“Appointed commander of the Aerospace Force in October 2023, by presidential decree,” read the general’s official biography on the Russian Defense Ministry website as of Friday, confirming unofficial reports by major media outlets last week.

Afzalov, 55, is a highly decorated career air defense officer, whose previous post was heading the Aerospace Force general staff since 2018. He was born near Simferopol, in Crimea.

The official appointment comes approximately two months after Afzalov stepped in as acting head of the force. Surovikin was reassigned to other duty in late August, and was subsequently spotted in Africa with several high-ranking military officials. His biography has since disappeared from the Defense Ministry website, without explanation.

Surovikin had gained fame during the conflicts in Chechnya and Syria, garnering the nickname ‘General Armageddon’ for his approach to military operations. He was put in charge of the entire Russian force engaging the Ukrainian military in October 2022, amid the Ukrainian offensives in Kharkov and Kherson. In January 2023, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov took over that post and Surovikin continued acting as his deputy.

It was Surovikin who reportedly recommended a tactical retreat from the right bank of the Dnieper in Kherson and building the extensive fortifications in both Kherson and Zaporozhye – dubbed the ‘Surovikin Line’. The Ukrainian army attempted to breach the line starting in June 2023 and failed while losing an estimated 90,000 men and thousands of pieces of equipment.