Alexander Dvornikov, the “butcher of Syria” in command of Russian forces in Ukraine

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On Sunday, Russian General Alexander Dvornikov became the first commander of all participating armed forces of Ukraine. This appointment of a soldier known to have led the Russian strategy of intense bombing in Syria raises fears of an intensification of violations against civilians.

From the outskirts of Grozny in Chechnya to the heart of Aleppo in Syria, he has a sullen reputation as a soldier willing to do anything to achieve his goals. Some, such as US general and former CIA chief David Petraeus, even dubbed him the “Butcher of Syria” for his leadership role during the Russian military campaign in Syria. From now on, General Alexander Dvornikov will deal with the war in Ukraine.

This soldier, who is highly respected by Vladimir Putin and as his enemies fear, was assigned on Sunday, April 10 to coordinate operations in Ukraine. Moscow did not officially announce the assumption of this duty, but it was confirmed to many Anglo-Saxon media by American military sources.

difficult situation man

This is the first time since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 that the entire armed forces find themselves under the command of a single commander, reports The Washington Post. Previously, there was a general for each front (north, south, and east), notes the Institute for the Study of War, an influential American blog of military analysis.

Such a reorganization should make it possible to “solve the problems of communication between the forces, which represented one of the weaknesses of the Russian military operation in Ukraine,” as the specialists of the Institute for the Study of War believe.

The choice of Alexander Dvornikov to take over field operations can be justified from a purely geographical point of view. This general, in fact, manages the southern district of the Russian army on which it depends, among other things, the Crimea and, above all, the Donbass.

Precisely, having failed to capture the capital Kyiv, the Russian troops withdrew in order to focus on the new priority of the Russian General Staff: to “secure” the Donetsk and Luhansk republics of the Donbass, which were both independent. Moscow recognized it three days before the invasion of Ukraine.

So Alexander Dvornikov is supposed to know the Earth better than anyone else. But this 60-year-old general also has a reputation as a tough guy and a “real heavyweight in the army,” confirms Mark Galeotti, a specialist on Russian military issues, in an interview with The Washington Post.

Reputation gained during the war in Syria. Previously, Alexander Dvornikov had pursued a serious military career, but without any special feats with weapons. He attended “all the good training schools and was assigned to both the infantry and air force divisions,” the Guardian recalls.

Everything changed in 2015, when Alexander Dvornikov became the first commander of the Russian joint forces in Syria. At the time, the power of Bashar al-Assad, one of Vladimir Putin’s main allies in the region, seemed to falter under the combined blows of the opposition, the jihadists of the Islamic State, and opposition to the established authority. .

It was Alexander Dvornikov who formulated and then implemented the strategy of massive bombing of several Syrian cities. An approach that, under the guise of targeting Islamist fighters, also weakens the anti-Assad rebels’ positions.

Intensifying indiscriminate bombing?

This strategy, which included the construction of a former air base in Hmeimim, in the west of the country, proves to Moscow that “Alexander Dvornikov knows how to adapt to new situations,” assures Mark Galeotti.

And it does so without much concern for the civilian population. The Russian Air Force does not hesitate to bombard buildings such as hospitals and schools, to spread an atmosphere of terror in the targeted Syrian cities. These random strikes have earned him, to say the least, a reputation as a soldier who will stop at nothing to achieve his ends, The Guardian confirms.

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Hence he was given the nickname “Butcher of Syria”. The exploitation of civilian life as a tool does not seem to bother Vladimir Putin. On the contrary, the Russian president summoned his general from Syria in March 2016 to offer him the southern region of the Russian army – one of the most important regions in the country, responsible in particular for Crimea, Ukraine and Chechnya – and give him an award. Medal of the Hero of the Russian Federation, one of the most prestigious medals.

He is the brute that Vladimir Putin calls for when he wants to demolish a city like Aleppo. “It’s one of the worst of the worst in the Russian military,” said James Stavridis, a former US admiral interviewed by NBC.

For this retired soldier, the appointment of Alexander Dvornikov at the head of all participating forces in Ukraine indicates the expectation of further atrocities against civilians. He will therefore have the same road map as in Syria: to use all possible means to get around a difficult military situation.

Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser to the United States, said during an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Especially since the Kremlin wants quick results. Vladimir Putin would like to be able to declare victory before May 9, the date of the big military parade in Moscow commemorating the end of World War II.

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