Ukraine Widens Gap in ‘Surovikin Line’ as Its Beleaguered Creator Reappears


Kyiv’s forces have expanded a breach in the “Surovikin Line”—Russia’s main defensive line near Robotyne in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region—open-source intelligence (OSINT) analysts reported, as its creator, General Sergei Surovikin, appeared to resurface.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive to reclaim its territory is now in its fourth month, with particularly heavy clashes taking place along the front lines in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions. GeoConfirmed, an OSINT account on X, formerly Twitter, said Monday that Kyiv’s forces have likely reached the “Surovikin Line” trench system near the village of Verbove, near Robotyne.

The so-called “Surovikin Line” refers to defensive lines in Ukraine to impede Ukraine’s armed forces. The system was constructed under the command of Surovikin, the former commander of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

On Monday, an unverified photo emerged that appeared to show Surovikin out in public with a woman resembling his wife, Anna. He hadn’t been sighted publicly since the Wagner Group’s aborted mutiny in June. He was reportedly detained in late June by authorities as part of a purge of military officials following the rebellion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with General Sergei Surovikin on December 31, 2022. An unverified photo emerged on September 4, 2023, that appeared to show Surovikin out in public with a woman resembling his wife, Anna.

Surovikin, who earned the nickname “General Armageddon” in Russian media because of his aggressive military tactics in Chechnya and Syria, was last seen in a video appeal calling for an end to the June 24 mutiny led by Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, with whom he was reported to have good relations.

Reuters reported United States intelligence as saying Surovikin was sympathetic to the Wagner rebellion, but it was unclear if he actively supported it. Reports in July based on a U.S. intelligence briefing also suggested that the general had known in advance about Prigozhin’s plans to march on Moscow.

Russian officials have not confirmed Surovikin’s arrest and refuse to comment on his whereabouts.

Newsweek reached out to Russia’s Foreign Ministry via email for comment.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S.-based think tank, also assessed that Ukraine’s forces had advanced beyond Russia’s anti-tank ditches and obstacles in the western Zaporizhzhia oblast where they “intend to hold those positions.”

It added, however, that it isn’t prepared to assess that Ukrainian forces have breached the Surovikin Line “in the absence of observed Ukrainian heavy equipment in these areas.”

“The deployment of Ukrainian heavy equipment and more substantial forces to these areas than ISW has so far observed would indicate both a breach of this Russian defensive layer and an effort to widen that breach,” the ISW said.

An OSINT analyst with the username Def Mon wrote on X that the Ukrainian military reached the trenches near Verbove, where active fighting is ongoing.

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