Russian Ground Forces Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, who over a 44-year military career was best-known for scorched-earth tactics in campaigns he led in Syria and Chechnya, was named overall operational commander of the war in Ukraine in April. He lasted about seven weeks before being dismissed as part of what appeared to be a wider shake-up in response to heavy losses and strategic failures.
Around the same time, Col. Gen. Andrey Serdyukov, another four-decade serviceman, the commander in chief of the elite airborne troops, was stripped of his post after nearly all divisions of the airborne forces suffered major losses.
And just last week Col. Gen. Alexander Zhuravlev, the head of the Western Military District responsible for Kharkiv, where Russian forces lost huge swaths of territory in early September, was removed after four years on the job, according to Russian business daily RBC.
Far from bestowing glory on Russia’s military brass, the war in Ukraine is proving toxic for top commanders, with at least eight generals fired, reassigned or otherwise sidelined since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24. Western governments have said that at least 10 others were killed in battle, a remarkably high number that military analysts say is evidence of grievous strategic errors.
The upheaval in the upper ranks of uniformed officers highlights Russia’s fundamental mistakes in war planning, and the dysfunctional chain of command that resulted first in Moscow’s failure to achieve its primary military objective — the quick capture of Kyiv and toppling of the Ukrainian government — and more recently in the retreats on the eastern and southern fronts.
But the dismissals also reflect a scramble by political elites to place blame for the costly and faltering war as open criticism grows louder, particularly among pro-war hawks and propagandists. [Continue reading…]