Putin looking to head off Kremlin coup with new Ukraine commander

Ukraine: Putin’s installation of new commander discussed by expert

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Douglas London, who was previously an operative within the CIA’s Clandestine Service, believes Vladimir Putin did not appoint Surovikin on merit but because the Russian Air Force Commander lacks the connections within the military to launch a coup. Putin installed Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon,” to oversee Russian operations in Ukraine this month after a run of heavy defeats at the hands of Ukrainian forces in Kherson and Kharkiv.

Mr London told CNN: “I don’t think Putin makes any decision on a senior position without considering what does this do for me, what is the threat? What is the advantage?

“I don’t think merit is really primary in his deliberations.

“So the current chief, he started out in the ground forces. He spent time there and he went to the Air Force later in his career.

“But he wouldn’t have the same network among the ground forces folks who have the tanks who have the guns. I mean, typically in Russian history, it’s about storming the castle, right? If they’re going to launch a coup, so an air force chief, he’s going to probably be more challenged to do that and probably make Putin feel a little bit safer.”

General Surovikin previously headed up Russian operations during the Syrian Civil War when Moscow propped up the regime of Bashir Al-Assad against Islamist rebel forces.

He was credited with masterminding the recapture of large swathes of Syria from rebel hands, the use of overwhelming firepower, and scant regard for collateral damage. 

Surovikin’s appointment as the top Russian commander in Ukraine coincided with the use of widespread suicide drones to target Ukrainian energy infrastructure.

The mass use of kamikaze drones has knocked out as much as 40 percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. 

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Rolling blackouts have been implemented by Kyiv in an effort to reduce pressure on the country’s electricity grid and to allow for repair work.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces continue to threaten an advance on Kherson, the Russian-occupied city in the south of the country.

Commenting on the situation in Kherson, Surovikin admitted the current outlook for Russian forces was “difficult.”

The Kremlin has ordered the evacuation of civilians from Kherson with several thousand having already been ferried out of the combat zone. 

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Kyiv has condemned the evacuations as “little more than deportations.”

The Kremlin on Friday sidestepped a question about whether or not President Vladimir Putin had given an order for Russian forces to withdraw from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred the question to Russia’s defence ministry.

In a conference call with reporters, when asked directly whether Putin had ordered a withdrawal, Peskov said: “This question concerns the conduct of the special military operation, I recommend you address it to the defence ministry.”

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