A man known as General Armageddon has reportedly been tapped by Russian president Vladimir Putin to lead the country's problem-plagued invasion of Ukraine.
In a television address delivered by Putin in the wake of heavy shelling of Ukraine's capital Kyiv this week, the Russian president said the bombing raid came "at the defence ministry’s suggestion".
That pointed to hardline general Sergei Surovikin, who was named commander of Moscow’s invasion forces just two days earlier.
A former defence ministry official, who has worked with Surovikin, spoke to the Guardian about the nature of the man who has earned such an ominous nickname.
"I am not surprised to see what happened in Kyiv. Surovikin is absolutely ruthless, with little regard for human life," they said.
"I am afraid his hands will be completely covered in Ukrainian blood."
Analysts say his elevation to the role gives more credence to the notion that Putin will react to Russia’s battlefield failures by intensifying the war effort.
Surovikin gained notoriety during a 1991 coup attempt launched by Soviet hardliners and earned himself a reputation for ruthlessness during his long stint with the Russian military.
Surovikin has previously been jailed twice, Al Jazeera reported. Once after soldiers under his command killed three demonstrators in Moscow during the August 1991 coup but was later released without trial. He was again arrested four years later and sentenced for illegal arms trade. That conviction was also reportedly overturned.
"Surovikin made a stellar career in the top echelons of the General Staff and defence ministry after 2008, during the radical military reform that required ruthlessness," read a 2019 report by US think tank the Jamestown Foundation.
"[His] readiness to vigorously execute any orders trounced any potential questions about his checkered curriculum vitae".
Russia warns west about involvement in war
As Ukraine pleads for more weapons from the west, Australia is mulling sending troops to help train soldiers on the front lines of the Russian invasion.
Russia will respond to the west's growing involvement in the Ukraine conflict but direct conflict with NATO is not in Moscow's interests, Russia's deputy foreign minister said this week.
US President Joe Biden promised to provide advanced air defence systems, and the Pentagon said on September 27 it would start delivering the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System over the next two months or so.
"We warn and hope that they realise the danger of uncontrolled escalation in Washington and other Western capitals," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by RIA news agency on Tuesday.
Russian missiles hit targets across Ukraine early on Monday, killing 19 people and wounding 105, emergency services officials said, as they tore into intersections, parks and tourist sites.
As many as 301 settlements in the regions of Kyiv, Lviv, Sumy, Ternopil and Khmelnytsky remained without electricity on Tuesday morning.
The barrage of dozens of cruise missiles fired from air, land and sea was the most widespread wave of air strikes to hit away from the front lines, at least since the initial volleys on the war's first day, February 24.
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