Germany replaces military chief in command shake-up

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Germany's new defense minister Boris Pistorius has replaced the head of the armed forces, sources said on Monday, following controversial comments last year about the strength of the Russian military.

Officials at the defense ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that General Eberhard Zorn would be succeeded by Major General Carsten Breuer.

Zorn, 63, had held the position since 2018. He had drawn fire last September with an interview in which he appeared to doubt the capability of the Ukrainian military to counter Russian forces.

He told Focus magazine that Ukraine was mounting “counter-attacks, with which one can win back places or individual areas of the frontlines, but not push Russia back over a broad front”.

He also expressed fears Russia could open a second front in the war, citing as possible targets “Kaliningrad, the Baltic Sea, the Finnish border, Georgia, Moldova”.

Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the US Army Europe, blasted the remarks at the time as a “stunningly poor analysis of Russian capabilities” which “unfortunately reflects much of the German 'elite' thinking”.

Media reports said Zorn would be sent into early retirement from Thursday.

Breuer, 59, is best known in Germany for leading the government's pandemic crisis response team from November 2021 to May 2022.

Germany's “general inspector”, as the position is called, is the highest ranking soldier in the country.

Media said that as part of the shake-up, Breuer would also serve as a key decision-maker at the defense ministry and military advisor to the chancellor.

Pistorius became defense minister in January, replacing Christine Lambrecht who was criticized for an uneven response to the Ukraine war as Germany faced accusations of foot-dragging in its arms shipments for Kyiv.

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