Following Sergey Surovikin’s appointment as commander-in-chief of the aerospace forces, the position of commander of the Eastern Military District (EMD) has been given to Deputy Chief of General Staff Alexander Zhuravlev. Like Surovikin, Zhuravlev will command both the EMD and the Russian group in Syria.
The relevant order was signed by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu on October 31 2017. By the same order, in compliance with the president’s decree, Surovikin was appointed commander-in-chief of the aerospace forces. RBC possesses a copy of the document, and its authenticity has been confirmed by a source in the Defense Ministry.
The order states that the reason for Zhuravlev’s appointment was a petition by Chief of General Staff and First Deputy Defense Minister Valery Gerasimov.
Surovikin was commander of the EMD forces between October 2013 and October 2017. In March 2017 he headed the Russian group of forces in Syria. In connection with his appointment to a new position, both of these positions have been taken up by Colonel-General Zhuravlev, a high-ranking source in the Defense Ministry told RBC. The information was confirmed by another source in the military department.
Zhuravlev has already commanded the Russian forces in Syria – between July and December 2016. Before his trip to Syria, he was the chief of staff of the Southern Military District (SMD), and upon his return he was promoted to deputy chief of general staff. The 51 year-old colonel-general was awarded the title in February 2017.
Alexander Zhuravlev completed his training at the Military Academy of Armored Forces in 1996. After serving for ten years in the Far East, he became the commander of a motorized rifle division. In 2008, Zhuravlev was appointed the commander of the 2nd General Forces Army (Vladikavkaz). Two years later, he was already in command of the 2nd Guard Red-Banner General Forces Army (Samara). In 2015, he was the deputy commander of the Central Military District for several months, after which he became chief of staff of the SMD, from where he was assigned to Syria.
One of the primary tasks which the new commander will have to see to is the reduction of the Russian forces in Syria, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov told RBC. Having ensured the Syrian forces’ victory over the militants, Russia has also achieved its own goals. “In these two years, Russian military personnel have managed to acquire real combat experience. In addition, equipment has also been tested in combat,” Pukhov noted.