Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, applauds Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin during an awards ceremony for troops who fought in Syria, in the Kremlin, in Moscow, on December 28, 2017. Image Credit: AP file

MOSCOW: Russia on Saturday appointed a new general to lead the Ukraine offensive.

The Russian defence ministry said General Sergey Surovikin had been appointed commander of the Joint Grouping of Forces in the areas of the special military operation.

According to the ministry’s website, Surovikin is 55, born in Siberia’s Novosibirsk.

He has combat experience in the 1990s conflicts in Tajikistan and Chechnya and, more recently, in Syria, where Moscow intervened in 2015 on the side of Bashar Al Assad’s regime.

Until now Surovikin led the “South” forces in Ukraine, according to a defence ministry report in July.

The name of his predecessor has never been officially revealed, but some Russian media said it was General Alexander Dvornikov - also a general of the Second Chechen War and Russian commander in Syria.

Russian forces were forced out of much of the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September by a Ukrainian counter-offensive that allowed Kyiv to retake thousands of square kilometres of territory.

Russian troops also lost territory in the southern Kherson region as well as the Lyman transport hub in eastern Ukraine.