(Reuters) - Russian General Sergei Surovikin, not seen in public since a mutiny by Wagner mercenaries in late June, has been replaced as head of the air force by Viktor Afzalov, the head of its main staff, according to state news agency RIA.
Here are some key facts about Surovikin who was nicknamed "General Armageddon" by the Russian media for his reputed ruthlessness and also praised for his leadership.
Surovikin was promoted from leading Russian forces in southern Ukraine to overall command of the Ukraine campaign on Oct. 8, 2022 - the first person to be publicly named in that role.
Russia had just been routed in the northeastern Kharkiv region. Within a month, he had ordered a withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro river in Ukraine's southern Kherson region, recognising that his forces were in danger of being cut off. The contingent, estimated by the US at 30,000, retreated in good order, blowing up a strategic bridge behind them.
Ukraine's defence minister and Western diplomats said Surovikin appeared to have boosted discipline while also stepping up attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure.
His image as a hulking Siberian willing to use brutal tactics to get results appealed to Russian nationalists, who felt he could oversee the retreat without opening up dangerous internal divisions.
Nevertheless, with the war stagnating, he was subordinated to Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov in January, staying on as one of Gerasimov's three deputies in charge of the war effort in Ukraine.
After the Kherson pullout, Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, a fierce critic of Gerasimov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, praised Surovikin as "a man who is not afraid of responsibility" and said he should replace Gerasimov.
When Prigozhin launched a mutiny against the defence establishment on June 23, Surovikin was one of two generals who publicly urged him to give up. Surovikin looked strained and was breathing hard in the video where he made the appeal.
The mutiny ended the following day with negotiations and a deal with the Kremlin. In its aftermath, unconfirmed reports said Surovikin was being investigated for possible complicity.
U.S. officials told Reuters at the time that Surovikin had supported Prigozhin, but that Western intelligence did not know with certainty if he had helped the rebellion in any way.
The Kremlin has declined to answer questions about the general. A lawmaker from Russia's ruling party, Andrei Kartapolov, said on July 12 that Surovikin was "resting" and unavailable.
In 2017, while commanding Russia's vast Eastern Military District, Surovikin was sent for around eight months to head forces deployed to Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad fight diverse rebel groups.
By the time he finished his assignment, the civil war had turned in Assad's favour.
When a large number of Islamic State militants surrendered to Russian forces in Syria, one of their leaders - while under Russian interrogation - was heard to cry: "This is Armageddon, this is Armageddon." Surovikin became 'General Armageddon'.
Surovikin was rewarded with the command of Russia's Aerospace Forces and made a Hero of the Russian Federation. By 2021 he was an Army General, equal in rank to Gerasimov.
While Russia denied targeting civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Russian air strikes and often indiscriminate bombing killed 5,700 civilians in the two years to September 2017.
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Surovikin was born on Oct. 11, 1966 in Novosibirsk, Siberia. A graduate of the General Staff's Frunze Military Academy, he fought in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Syria and Ukraine.
With a reputation for bravery, truthful assessments and looking after his soldiers at the front line, reports also emerged of his toughness in Chechnya, notably his order: "For every soldier killed we will destroy three rebels."
Admirers in the Russian military compared him to Alexander Suvorov, the legendary tsarist-era general who was a close associate of Empress Catherine the Great.
Chechen militants tried to kill him several times. In one bomb blast, he received concussion and was hospitalised.
(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Mark Trevelyan)