WASHINGTON – After its stark post-invasion setbacks, Russia has appointed a new Ukrainian war commander, a US official said on Sunday.
Russia turned to General Alexander Dvornikov, 60, one of Russia’s most experienced military officers and – according to US officials – a general with a record of brutality against civilians in Syria and other theaters of war. The senior official who identified the new commander was not authorized to be identified and spoke on condition of anonymity.
But White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said “no appointment of a general can erase the fact that Russia has already faced strategic failure in Ukraine.”
“This general will be just another perpetrator of crimes and brutality against Ukrainian civilians,” Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And the United States, as I have said before, is determined to do everything we can to support the Ukrainians as they resist him and the forces he commands.”
The move to establish new battlefield leadership comes as Russia prepares for what is expected to be a major and more targeted push to expand Russian control in the Donbass and follows a failed overture attempt to conquer kyiv, the capital.
Dvornikov rose to prominence while leading Russia’s group of forces in Syria, where Moscow has been waging a military campaign since 2015 to bolster President Bashar Assad’s regime during a devastating civil war.
Dvornikov is a career military officer and has steadily risen through the ranks after starting as a platoon commander in 1982. He fought in the second war in Chechnya and held several high-level positions before being appointed in charge of Russian troops in Syria in 2015.
In 2016, Putin awarded Dvornikov the Hero of Russia Medal, one of the country’s highest honors. Dvornikov has been the commander of the Southern Military District since 2016.
Sullivan described the general as having a record of brutality against civilians in Syria and said “we can expect the same in this theater.” But he stressed that the US strategy remains the same to provide Ukraine with the military and logistical support it needs.
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