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Russia appoints new overall military commander after series of losses in Ukraine

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Russia has appointed a new commander on Saturday to lead its troops in Ukraine after the Kremlin suffered a series of military setbacks in the past weeks.

Sergey Surovikin, an Army general, previously led Russian forces in Syria. He is known for his brutal and controversial military tactics employed in Syria.

This is the first time an official announcement has been made naming a single overall commander of Russia’s military efforts in Ukraine since the start of the invasion.

Until now Sergey Surovikin led the “South” forces in Ukraine, according to the Russian defence ministry.

The change follows the reported sacking earlier this week of the two Russian army commanders.

Surovikin’s appointment comes hours after an explosion caused the partial collapse of a bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula with Russia, damaging an important supply artery for the Kremlin. 

Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, which killed three people. 

The explosion, which Russian authorities said was caused by a truck bomb, risked a sharp escalation in Russia’s eight-month war, with some lawmakers calling for President Vladimir Putin to declare a “counterterrorism operation,” shedding the term “special military operation” that had downplayed the scope of fighting to ordinary Russians.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant loses external power source

Meanwhile, Russia has been concentrating its latest attacks in Ukraine on the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant

The UN atomic watchdog has renewed calls for a protection zone around the power plant which lost its last external power source as a result of artillery fire and is now relying on emergency diesel generators.

 All six reactors are shut down but they still require electricity for cooling and other vital safety functions.

If the cooling system fails, this could lead to a meltdown and a fire that could release and spread radiation causing a nuclear disaster.

Russia and Ukraine have mutually accused each other of attacking the plant and of “nuclear terrorism”.

Zaporizhzhia is one of four regions in Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin has annexed in violation of international laws. 

While the nuclear plant has been under Russian control for months, the city of the same name remains under Ukrainian control.

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