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Moscow appointed General Alexander Dvornikov to lead the Russian invasion of Ukraine amid a planned reorganization by Russia to unify the military command structure and change its war tactics, according to reports on Saturday.
The BBC was the first to report on Saturday that General Dvornikov has been appointed to lead Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine, citing Western officials.
The New York Times also reported that Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s southern military district, has significant combat experience in Syria, where he commanded Russian forces for a year beginning in 2015 and where he became known for ordering bombing raids on civilian enclaves.
It was not immediately clear if the sources who spoke to both outlets are the same and Russia has not yet confirmed the change in leadership.
Before Dvornikov’s appointment, no central commander was directing Russian forces on the ground in Ukraine, the New York Times reported, citing US officials.
A State Department spokesman told The Hill that they would not comment on the general in charge of the Russian invasion, but said “it is clear that this war has not gone according to Putin’s plan: Ukraine has stood in the way of a quick victory.”
“This war is taking a heavy toll on the people of Ukraine, but it is also taking a significant toll on the forces of Russia,” the spokesman said. “This war was a strategic mistake that has left Russia weaker and more isolated on the world stage, while the people of Ukraine have inspired the world with their bravery.”
A Russian central command for the war in Ukraine
Dvornikov will now unify Russian forces under a central command in Ukraine.
“That particular commander has a lot of experience in the operations of the Russian operations in Syria. So we would expect overall command and control to improve,” the source told the BBC.
The appointment of Dvornikov, who has been described as the “Butcher of Syria” and one of President Vladimir Putin’s favorite generals, it also raised concerns that the war in Ukraine will become bloodier.
Dvornikov gained notoriety in 2015 for ordering the bombing of Aleppo that killed thousands of people, including 200 children, The Telegraph noted. He also helped develop Russia’s strategy to attack civilian infrastructure, such as bakeries and hospitals.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington, DC-based think tank, said in a report analyzing lessons learned by the Russian military in Syria that Dvornikov had previously said command demoralization and inefficiency were pervasive. in the Syrian Arab Army during that conflict.
After Syria, Russian military leaders, including Dvornikov, determined that Russia had “effectively coordinated precision strikes with tactical units in urban operations, using aircraft and Kalibr cruise missiles in a close support role,” according to the think tank.
The Syrian Revolution Network, a group that has opposed the Russian-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad, condemned Russia for its designation of Dvornikov over troops in Ukraine and the general’s “genocidal” tactics.
“Having failed in Ukraine so far, except for committing war crimes, Putin has appointed a new commander of the Southern Military District, General Alexander Dvornikov, with extensive experience in committing heinous genocidal crimes against defenseless civilians in Syria,” the group tweeted.
Dvornikov has led the southern military district since 2016. The Kremlin has awarded him the title of Hero of the Russian Federation.
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