Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly appointed General Aleksandr Dvornikov as the new commander for his invasion of Ukraine, with one former U.S. military official likening him to an “executioner.”
Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Mark Hertling, a retired U.S. Army general and former Commanding General of the U.S. Army in Europe, discussed Dvornikov’s past in the Russian military and explained why he seems to fit Putin’s desired strategy in Ukraine. Currently serving as the commander for Russia’s southern military district, which includes regions like Chechnya and Crimea, Hertling explained that Dvornikov is well-versed in campaigns involving attacks on civilians and the sowing of chaos.
“The way he has conducted combat operations in the past has caused him to be… [perceived as] the kind of executioner we’ve seen prosecute these kinds of campaigns where there’s an awful lot of civilian attacks, civilian destruction, [and] chaos on populations, both in Syria and Grozny,” the retired general said. “So this is the guy who’s going to be asked to deliver success before the [May 9th], Mayday Parade in Moscow.”
Dvornikov was the first Russian commander of the Russian army during its intervention in Syria in 2015 and, according to the BBC, played a key role in Russia’s bombardment efforts in the country in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Gwythian Prins, a military strategy expert who’s advised NATO, spoke to the BBC about the reported appointment of Dvornikov and said that his background indicates a continued focus on the strategy of terrorizing the Ukrainian people, after its initial plans failed to secure a decisive victory.
Hertling added, however, that it remains unclear if Dvornikov will be able to deliver on Putin’s goals, despite his background and experience, due to the Russian military’s lack of forces in Ukraine’s eastern region.
CNN previously reported that forces are regrouping in the east, with plans to advance towards the city of Kharkiv, which is the country’s second-largest city. Hertling cast doubt on those reports, noting that it would be difficult for the Russian forces to move to the eastern regions and conduct new attacks given the severe loss of soldiers and equipment they have experienced so far.
“This isn’t like Stratego or a video game,” the retired general explained. “Those forces have been mauled and they’re in very bad shape. You just can’t regenerate and say we’re gonna send them into battle once again. It’s gonna take a long time, if they’re ever able to get those forces combat operational again. So I think Ukraine has a very good shape.”