Chief of the general staff (CGS) Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian military, has taken over from General Sergei Surovikin, who will now be one of his three deputies.
In their latest intelligence update on the war, the Ministry of Defence said: “This is a significant development in Russian president Vladimir Putin’s approach to managing the war.
“The deployment of the CGS as theatre commander is an indicator of the increasing seriousness of the situation Russia is facing, and a clear acknowledgement that the campaign is falling short of Russia’s strategic goals.”
The MoD also said the surprise move “is likely to be greeted with extreme displeasure by much of the Russian ultra-nationalist and military blogger community, who have increasingly blamed Gerasimov for the poor execution of the war”.
They said that in contrast, Surovikin “has been widely praised by this community for his championing of a more realistic approach”.
The changes are further evidence of Russia’s struggles in Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Kyiv denied Russia’s claim that it had killed more than 600 Ukrainian troops in a deadly attack.
Ukraine’s military intelligence has also alleged that Russia is looking to mobilise as many as 500,000 conscripts in mid-January, on top of the 300,000 brought into the army back in October.
Russia has denied any plans for a second wave of mobilisation – it’s worth noting that the September call-up sparked protests across the country.