Within minutes of the first reports of early Monday morning rocket attacks on central Kiev, one name began to dominate discussion of Moscow’s shift in military tactics.
While a tough response from Russia was widely expected after explosions caused the partial collapse of the bridge linking it to Crimea, the bombing of the Ukrainian capital appeared to bear all the hallmarks of Sergei Surovikin.
A military veteran who served in the Soviet Union’s war with Afghanistan during the 1980s, he was named on Saturday as commander of the Russian occupation forces in Ukraine.
The 55-year-old is infamous for ordering troops to open fire on pro-democracy protesters in Moscow when three people were killed during the last days of the Soviet Union in 1991.
General Surovikin is accused of complicity in the indiscriminate bombing of opposition fighters and overseeing chemical weapons attacks in a campaign believed to have been crucial to helping the Syrian government regain control of much of the country.
The consensus among experts is that Vladimir Putin’s decision to put him in charge of Russian forces in Ukraine is a direct result of his reputation for ruthlessness and brutality.
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