Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) toasts with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev next to Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russian troops in Syria, after a ceremony to present state awards to servicemen who fought in Syria, at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 28, 2017. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Kirill Kudryavtsev | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Russia has named a new commander to lead all of its forces in Ukraine as the Kremlin War enters its eighth month.
Sergei Surovikin, an army general who also oversees the Russian air force, previously led Russian forces in Syria. His new role will be to galvanize Russian troops after a series of setbacks, including heavy losses of troops and equipment, and the confiscation of thousands of square kilometers of occupied territory.
Surovikin’s appointment follows that of Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to enlist hundreds of thousands of Russian men for the war. Putin’s order for around 300,000 Russians to join the fight in Ukraine is the first time since World War II that Moscow has conscripted civilians into the army.
The Kremlin’s decision to impose a partial draft was triggered in part by a series of stunning Ukrainian advances in recent weeks.
Last week, Putin said that four Ukrainian regions now belonged to Russia. The Russian leader cited referendums, widely seen as rigged and illegal by Western governments, held in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine.
“The results are known, well known,” Putin said Sept. 30. “There are four new regions of Russia”, referring to the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
Following Putin’s speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he would submit an “accelerated” request for his country to join the NATO military alliance.
Equipped with an arsenal of Western weaponry, Ukrainian forces recaptured large swathes of territory that had been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the war. Their battlefield successes tarnished the reputation of the Kremlin’s mighty war machine.
But as Ukraine fights to reclaim land one village at a time, the cost to civilians has been enormous.
So far, the UN estimates that the Russian invasion has claimed over 6,000 civilian lives and injured more than 8,600. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights adds that the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher.