Who is the “butcher of Syria”, the new general of the Russian offensive in Ukraine?

By entrusting General Aleksandr Dvornikov with reviving the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has chosen to bet on an officer who has proven himself in the war in Syria with bloodthirsty tactics that have earned him the nickname of “butcher of Syria”.

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Aged 60, this career soldier who joined the Russian army some forty years ago had headed the intervention force deployed by Moscow in Syria to support the regime of Bashar el-Assad, in 2015.

Under his leadership, the Russian air campaign in Syria had enabled Bashar al-Assad’s troops to stabilize their position after years of civil war. Russian troops were however accused of numerous war crimes during their intervention.

Knowledge of Ukraine

In recognition of his services, Aleksandr Dvornikov was appointed head of the Russian forces in the south of the country in 2016. His territory notably covers Crimea and Chechnya, where he already fought in the 90s, so the soldier knows already well the region of Donbass, in Ukraine, where fighting has been taking place between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainians since 2014.

“The appointment of Dvornikov as commander makes sense now that Russian efforts are concentrated almost entirely in the sector under his responsibility,” noted the Institute for the Study of War in analyzing this change in strategy at the head of the army, when Russian forces withdrew from the vicinity of Kyiv to assemble in eastern Ukraine.

Previously, Dvornikov was part of a group of two or three commanders responsible for commanding the various fronts in Ukraine, the institute suggested, which complicated decision-making and which would have contributed to the tactical setbacks of the Russian forces from the start. of their invasion.

Even more brutal?

The choice of General Dvornikov to take over the offensive is not surprising in the eyes of Mark Galeotti, an honorary professor at University College London who studies Russian forces.

Renowned for his innovation, the general is seen as “someone who can acclimate to a new and unfamiliar situation,” the analyst explained to the Washington Post.

However, this new twist raises fears in the United States that abuses against civilians in Boutcha and other Russian-occupied towns are just a taste.

“This general has a resume that includes acts of brutality against civilians in other theaters of operations in Syria. And we can expect the same [en Ukraine]“commented Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to the White House, on the airwaves of CNN, Sunday.

Who is Aleksandr Dvornikov?

– He entered the Soviet Army in 1978, where he rose through the ranks early, moving from one command to another.

– At the end of the 90s, he fought in the second Chechen war, where he won several positions.

– He is appointed head of the Russian intervention in Syria in 2015, where abuses against the civilian population are increasing.

– He was appointed head of the entire southern Russian army in 2016, which covers Crimea and the Ukrainian border. In the same year, he was awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation medal, one of the most prestigious Russian titles.

– He is promoted to general of the army in April 2020.

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