Vladimir Putin has appointed a new general to direct the war in Ukraine as his military shifts plans after a failure to take Kyiv, according to a US official and a European official.
Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s southern military district, has been named theatre commander of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, according to senior sources.
The White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said: “No appointment of any general can erase the fact that Russia has already faced a strategic failure in Ukraine.” Sullivan described the general as having a record of brutality against civilians in Syria and said “we can expect more of the same”.
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, he said:
This general will just be another author of crimes and brutality against Ukrainian civilians. And the United States, as I said before, is determined to do all that we can to support Ukrainians as they resist him and they resist the forces that he commands.
Dvornikov gained prominence while leading the Russian group of forces in Syria, where Moscow has waged a military campaign since 2015 to shore up President Bashar Assad’s regime during a devastating civil war.
Dvornikov, started his career as a platoon commander in 1982. He fought during the second war in Chechnya and took several top positions before being placed in charge of the Russian troops in Syria in 2015.
In 2016, Putin awarded Dvornikov the Hero of Russia medal, one of the country’s highest awards. Dvornikov has served as the commander of the Southern Military District since 2016, reported the Association Press.
A European official told CNN that the appointment “speaks to a Russian acknowledgement that it is going extremely badly and they need to do something differently” .
“They do things in the same old way,” the official added.
Dvornikov, 60, was the first commander of Russia’s military operations in Syria, after Putin sent troops there in September 2015 to back the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. During Dvornikov’s command in Syria from September 2015 to June 2016, Russian aircraft backed the Assad regime and its allies as they laid siege to rebel-held eastern Aleppo, bombarding densely populated neighborhoods and causing major civilian casualties. The city fell to Syrian government forces in December 2016.
Russian forces have used a similarly heavy-handed approach in parts of Ukraine, striking residential buildings in major cities and demolishing much of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.