An army general dubbed the “butcher of Syria” has been appointed the new commander of Russian forces concentrated in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly growing frustrated at the lack of progress Russian troops have made since the country’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Aleksandr Dvornikov, 61, who is known for brutality against civilians in Syria and other war zones, will be responsible for sweeping eastern Ukraine and delivering Putin some form of victory.
Dvornikov led campaigns in Syria which saw Russian bombs dropped on densely-populated areas, particularly in the city of Aleppo, where almost 10,000 bombs indiscriminately hit schools, hospitals and refuge points.
The concern for eastern Ukraine will be the extent to which Russia will now employ similar tactics to break the will of the Ukrainian people.
“It is about liberating cities by reducing them to rubble,” a military analyst from Moscow told the U.K. Telegraph broadsheet.
“This commander has extensive experience in Syrian operations,” one Russian military official noted. “Therefore, we expect to improve general command and control.”
It is believed that Russia’s political imperatives can take precedence over the military with Putin reportedly wanting to move forward to some success by May 9.
Austrian military expert Tom Cooper suggests that with the arrival of Dvornikov, the actions of the Russians may change qualitatively: “As a general, he has a higher rank than all the commanders of the armies involved. This means that no one will question his orders, there will be no ordinary competition between generals, nor ‘each for himself’ — as it was before.'”
Until 2016, Dvornikov commanded Russian troops in Syria for almost a year. As a result, he earned from journalists and experts the nickname “butcher of Syria” for his war tactics, which involved a large number of civilian casualties. Journalist and publicist Arkadi Babchenko, who fought in Chechnya, said that Dvornikov was noted for not sparing his soldiers to perform tasks.
At the same time, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is convinced that Russia has already experienced a “strategic failure” in Ukraine and that the appointment of Army General Alexander Dvornikov will not change Russia’s chances of success.
According to Sullivan, Russia will not be able to conquer Ukraine, regardless of who the general is or who commands its troops. The United States has also warned that the Russian general is ready to repress civilians, as he did in Syria.
Dvornikov’s appointment is seen as a sign of Putin’s determination to make a resounding announcement on what Russia still calls “special military operations” in Ukraine before May 9, known as Victory Day in Russia, which is the day when in 1945 the Russian government announced the defeat of Nazi Germany.