Former criminal, owner of an apartment for $ 2 million and a native of Donbass: who now commands Russian troops in Ukraine

Gennady Zhidko, head of the "special operation"

Colonel-General Gennady Zhidko, who now leads the Russian troops in Ukraine, served as chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, commander of the Eastern Military District, and participated in the military operation in Syria. In November 2021, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation for military-political work. In this position , Zhidko is obliged, in particular, to carry out "counter-propaganda work to protect personnel from negative information and psychological impact" and to undertake "prevention of deviant behavior." In early June, the CIT found out that “the entire operation in Donbass” was now commanded by Zhidko. As CIT founder Ruslan Leviev notes , people from the eastern military district, since it is considered the most equipped and combat-ready, are given a more privileged position: they are sent to the most important areas, as this brings the greatest result.

In June, investigators from Metla discovered an apartment in Moscow in the Khamovniki district of Gennady Zhidko worth $2 million.

Sergei Surovikin, Commander of the Southern Military District

Russian Army General Sergei Surovikin in 1991, by decision of the State Emergency Committee, personally led a column of armored vehicles, which crushed people during the August coup. Then three defenders of the White House died: Vladimir Usov, Dmitry Komar and Ilya Krichevsky. “According to the official version, in the tunnel under Novy Arbat, “the column was stopped by the crowd, blockages were built on the road. Surovikin addressed the crowd with warnings ... demanded that the column be let through and fired two warning shots upwards from a service weapon. Then, with part of the column, he broke through the rubble and left the place of the conflict, and during the ongoing crowd attacks on the remaining military vehicles, three young people were killed, ” recalls Alexander Cherkasov, a member of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Center, for Novaya Gazeta. Europe".

In 1995, Surovikin was found guilty of several crimes at once: aiding, acquiring and selling, as well as carrying firearms and ammunition without a permit. These articles of the Criminal Code provided for up to 8 years in prison, but, as Radio Liberty notes , the sentence turned out to be humane: one year of imprisonment on probation. Later, “when the investigation figured out that the officer had been set up, the charge was dropped and the conviction was extinguished,” writes the Project. The Project also reported that in March 2004, Lieutenant Colonel Tsibizov accused the division commander, Major General Surovikin, of beating him for political reasons. Later, Tsibizov withdrew his statement from the prosecutor's office.

In 2014, already being the commander of the troops of the Eastern Military District, according to the then head of Navalny's headquarters, Leonid Volkov, Sergey Surovikin worked in the Rostov region, where he directed the dispatch of tank units subordinate to him to the southeast of Ukraine.

In 2017, Putin appointed Surovikin as commander of the aerospace forces. Twice during this period he was sent to Syria, where he spent a total of more than a year.

In June 2022, it became known that Surovikin now commands the Southern Group of Forces in Ukraine: the Ministry of Defense wrote about this, stating that under the command of Surovikin, she “completed the defeat of the encircled grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Mountain Cauldron.” In this post, he replaced Alexander Dvornikov.

Alexander Lapin, commander of the Center group

Little is known about the biography of Colonel General Alexander Lapin: he passed all command positions, headed the Combined Arms Academy of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, and since 2017 he has been commander of the troops of the Central Military District.

In 2013, in an interview with Novaya Gazeta, he spoke about the war as follows: “War is inevitable. She was, is and will be. This is a disaster, the cross of our civilization. But when you think about life and death, about creation and destruction, you find a relationship in all of this. This is what war is. It cleanses from the accumulated evil, allows you to destroy the old and build a new one. But you will be able to know its meaning, its power and significance only when you understand that the sacrifices made to it are not in vain.

Unlike Surovikin and Zhidko, Colonel-General Alexander Lapin was repeatedly mentioned in the reports of the Ministry of Defense on the course of the war in Ukraine: he appeared as a general presenting “state awards to servicemen who showed courage and heroism during a special military operation.” The Russian service of the BBC found out that Lapin also awarded his son Denis Lapin: a lieutenant colonel who commanded a regiment advancing on Chernigov and Sumy. From the talks published by Ukrainian intelligence, it is clear that the regiment suffered serious losses, but its commander, Lapin Jr., was presented for an award.

On June 24, a message appeared from the Ministry of Defense that, under the command of Lapin, formations and military units of the "Center" group of troops blocked Lysichansk from the south.

It was Lapin's deputy Rustam Minnekaev who spoke about the goal of the "second stage" of the invasion of Ukraine: according to him, it is "full control over the Donbass and southern Ukraine, a land corridor to the Crimea and another exit to Transnistria."

Mikhail Teplinskiy, Commander of the Airborne Forces

Colonel-General Mikhail Teplinskiy was born where he is now fighting - in the Donetsk region. After school, he immediately entered the Airborne Forces School. He managed to take part in the armed conflict in Transnistria, in the First and Second Chechen wars. As Proekt writes, during the First Chechen War - from December 1994 to March 1995, Senior Lieutenant Teplinsky had about 30 killed militants on his personal combat account. He was in the war in Syria.

The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), citing Ukrainian sources, reported in mid-June that Mikhail Teplinskiy, chief of staff of the Central Military District, had replaced Andrey Serdyukov as commander of the Airborne Forces. ISW stressed that they can neither confirm nor deny the statements of the sources. “If they are correct, then this indicates that Serdyukov is responsible for the poor performance and heavy losses among the Russian airborne units, especially in the early operations near Kyiv. Continued layoffs and possible internal purges of high-ranking Russian officers are likely to further undermine the weak capabilities of the Russian command and the confidence of Russian officers,” wrote ISW. There is no other confirmation of information that Teplinskiy will command the Airborne Forces yet.

American military expert Rob Lee also believes that the units of the Western and Eastern districts in Ukraine may also be under the leadership of either Lapin or Surovikin. According to Rob Lee, the commander of the Western Military District, Alexander Zhuravlev, and his chief of staff were released, while the commander of the Eastern Military District, Alexander Chaiko, returned to Syria. According to Rob Lee, they decided to replace Serdyukov when he failed to capture Kyiv.

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