A RUTHLESS general who was promoted by Vladimir Putin is the architect behind the new wave of brutality sweeping Ukraine.
General Sergey Surovikin, renowned for his merciless manoeuvres, has now taken the reins of the faltering Russian invasion.
Fearsomely nicknamed "General Armageddon", the stony-faced 55-year-old is now officially pulling the puppet strings.
Surovikin's dramatic appointment to lead the war effort came just hours after Vlad's prized bridge from Russia to Crimea was blown up.
It followed a significant military shake-up over the last week amid catastrophic setbacks on the frontline, forcing soldiers to retreat.
The general is now believed to be orchestrating a brutal counterattack against Ukrainian forces to assert his power.
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His first order of business was launching a deadly barrage of missiles towards nine major cities, including Kyiv, in a brutal revenge blitz.
One even landed near President Volodymyr Zelensky's office – prompting him to blast Putin for trying to "wipe Ukraine off the map".
The raging Russian President confirmed the series of attacks were in retaliation to the bridge blast and accused Ukraine of "terrorism" before vowing a "very harsh response" if they continued.
The incident eerily echoed Surovikin's savagery in Syria, when a brutal bombardment destroyed the majority of the city of Aleppo.
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In 2015, he led Russia's bloody campaign after Moscow intervened on the side of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which managed to regain control of more than 50 per cent of the country.
He was accused of using "controversial" tactics on the battlefield, a pattern that is prominently displayed in his chequered military history.
Surovikin first made a name for himself during the 1991 Soviet coup, when he killed three protestors – seeing him spend several months in custody.
The charges against him were ultimately dropped, but his prowess only swelled during his time behind bars.
The 55-year-old ended up being hailed as a hero as Russians heard how he "got in his tank without hesitation and rushed to save his country."
Old comrades have praised his new promotion, suggesting the patriotic brute will change the course of the doomed invasion.
Surovikin is not sentimental.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said he is confident that his pal of 15 years will "make things right" on the frontline.
"The united group of forces is now in good hands," he said.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner mercenary group that was heavily deployed in Syria, described him as "legendary".
He told news agency Live24: "Surovikin is the most competent commander in the Russian army."
Kremlin insiders have told how Surovikin is a trigger-happy madman with little care for what his devastating missiles may hit.
With a fondness for attacks on civilians and wide-scale missile strikes on infrastructure, he is a formidable opponent for the West.
One source ominously warned: "Surovikin is not sentimental."
Surovikin is known among Russian soldiers as "General Armageddon" thanks to "his ability to act unconventionally and brutally."
He was promoted to General of the Army in 2021 – one of only a handful of Russian officers to reach such a rank – and over this summer was placed in charge of troops in southern Ukraine.
In February, he was slapped with sanctions from the EU for being "responsible for actively supporting and implementing actions and policies that undermine and threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."
British intelligence officials said his career "has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality," in a recent report discussing the possibility of his promotion.
Surovikin's appointment comes as Russia faces losing the war by Christmas as Vlad's army faces total collapse in a massive humiliation for the tyrant.
His forces could be pushed back to the Russian border by the end of the year if Kyiv keeps up its counter-offensive, a senior British government source has claimed.
Ben Hodges, a former US military chief in charge of American forces in Europe, said Russian lines were collapsing fast.
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Russian lines are said to be dramatically collapsing in eastern Ukraine as President Zelensky's men continue their lightning counter-offensive in the region.
Ukrainian fighters have recaptured swatches of territory in the north-east Kharkiv region and are narrowing in on Kherson – which, if captured – would be a monumental and embarrassing defeat for the Kremlin.
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