Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed a new general to direct the war in Ukraine as the military changes plans after failing to take Kyiv, according to a US official and a European official.
Officials told CNN that General Alexander Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s Southern Military District, has been appointed commander of the Russian military campaign theater in Ukraine.
“It’s talking about a Russian acknowledgment that things are going very badly and they need to do something different,” the European official said.
A new theater commander with extensive combat experience could bring a level of coordination to an offensive that is now expected to focus on the Donbass region, rather than multiple fronts.
Dvornikov, 60, was the first commander of Russian military operations in Syria, after Putin sent troops there in September 2015 to support the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. During Dvornikov’s command in Syria from September 2015 to June 2016, Russian aircraft supported the Assad regime and its allies as they laid siege to opposition-held eastern Aleppo, bombing densely populated neighborhoods and causing heavy civilian casualties. The city fell to Syrian government forces in December 2016.
Russian forces used a similarly harsh approach in parts of Ukraine, striking apartment buildings in major cities and destroying much of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
“We’ll see how effective that is,” the European official said. “Russian doctrine and tactics remain largely the same since Afghanistan.”
“They do things the same old way,” the official added.
Military analysts and US officials familiar with intelligence assessments have speculated that Russia’s generals have a goal of providing Putin with some tangible advances on the battlefield before D-Day on May 9, when Russia observes the defeat of Nazi Germany and traditionally commemorates the occasion with a parade in Moscow. red box.
The European official described this as a “self-imposed deadline” that could lead the Russians to make additional mistakes.
But it would also likely lead to Russian forces committing more atrocities, as allegedly happened in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha during their Russian occupation. “The stench of these war crimes will hang over these Russian armed forces for many years,” the official said.
Former British ambassador to Russia, Sir Roderick Lane, told Sky News on Saturday that Moscow had appointed a new general with “a very good track record in Syria of trying to gain some territory in Donetsk that Putin could present as a victory”.
The appointment of a new commander in chief for the Russian war in Ukraine may be an attempt to create a more coherent strategy. CNN previously reported that Russia does not have a theater-level commander in Ukraine, which means units from different Russian military regions operate without coordination and at times for opposing purposes, according to US defense officials.
The United States previously assessed that Putin was likely to name a general whose forces were operating in southern Ukraine because that was where the Russians captured more territory, as opposed to the Russian attempt to encircle Kyiv and cities in northern Ukraine, an effort that recently ended in withdrawal.
The Ukrainian General Staff said, on Friday, that the Russian forces have completed their withdrawal from the Sumy region in northern Ukraine, while continuing to reinforce the forces in the east of the country.
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