Russia is expected to appoint its fourth commander of the Western Military District in Ukraine since the beginning of the war, British military intelligence has said.
Lieutenant General Yevgeniy Nikiforov is likely in the process of taking over after his predecessor, Colonel General Sergei Kuzovlev, lasted just three months in the role.
He was dismissed after failing to prepare adequately to defend against Ukraine’s counteroffensive on the Donetsk region town of Lyman, according to Ukraine’s defence intelligence service.
But Britain’s Ministry of Defence suggested it would unlikely improve under the tenure of Lieutenant General Nikiforov, who oversaw Russia’s failed attempt to capture Kyiv earlier this year.
In its daily intelligence briefing, the MoD said on Friday: “Lieutenant General Yevgeniy Nikiforov is likely in the process of taking over command of Russia’s Western Group of Forces (WGF) in Ukraine.
“He would be at least the fourth commander of the formation since the invasion, and replaces Colonel General Sergei Kuzovlev, who was appointed just three months ago.
“As the Chief of Staff of Russia’s Eastern Group of Forces (EGF) during the early weeks of the invasion, Nikiforov would have been heavily involved in planning the disastrous attempt by EGF and airborne forces to advance on Kyiv from the northwest, via the Chernobyl area.”
Defending Kreminna and Svatove
The Western Military District, one of Russia’s five military districts, incorporates regions bordering Ukraine, including the Belgorod and Bryansk regions. It also covers the Kaliningrad exclave.
Lieutenant General Nikiforov will also be tasked with defending Russia’s lines in and around the Luhansk towns of Kreminna and Svatove, which both hold important strategic value to Kyiv and Moscow.
Ukraine is believed to have forced Russia to reinforce the Kreminna sector of its frontline in the Luhansk region.
Recapturing Kreminna and nearby Svatove could help provide Ukraine’s military with a springboard for future assaults into the Donbas.
Liberation of the towns would give Ukraine control of major highways leading to the industrial hubs of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.
“WGF is almost certainly currently tasked with holding Russia’s right flank, the area of Luhansk Oblast around Kreminna and Svatove,” the MoD said.
“As either side could plausibly attempt an offensive in this sector, Nikiforov assumes an important operational role in the conflict.”