(NewsNation) — Russia reportedly has tapped a new war commander to take centralized control of the next phase of battle in Ukraine after its costly failures in the opening campaign.
Russia has turned to Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, 60, one of the country’s most experienced military officers but also one of its most brutal, according to U.S. officials.
Dvornikov has been called the “Butcher of Syria” for indiscriminately killing civilians there.
“He and other senior Russian leaders have shown in the past their disregard for avoiding civilian harm and the brutality with which they conduct and prosecute their operations,” Pentagon press pecretary John Kirby said.
Until the appointment, Russia has had no central war commander on the ground. Experts say the change marks a notable shift in strategy.
“One of the problems was that they had too many generals in charge. Too many cooks in the kitchen,” Dmitri Alperovitch said on Monday evening’s edition of “On Balance with Leland Vittert.”
Alperovitch is a former advisory board member to NATO’s cooperative cyber database center and went on to say that, so far, Dvornikov has also been the most successful Russian military leader in Ukraine.
“He’s also been the most effective general of the war so far. He commands the southern military district that leveled Mariupol,” he continued.
“The very fact that they’ve appointed a general to oversee the entire operation is significant because they’re correcting some mistakes from early on,” Brian Whitmore with The Atlantic Council told “Morning In America” on Monday.
The new battlefield leadership comes as the Russian military prepares for what is expected to be a large, focused push to expand control in Ukraine’s east.
Whitmore said he expects Russia’s renewed focus will make things more difficult for the Ukrainian army as previous logistical issues like strained supply lines become less complicated.
U.S. officials fear the narrower attack will only lead to more devastation, specifically against the Ukrainian people.
“Sadly, we can all expect that those same brutal tactics, that same disregard for civilian life and civilian infrastructure as they now focus on a more geographically confined area in the Donbas,” Kirby said.
As for Dvornikov, the general gained prominence while leading Russian forces in Syria, where Moscow has waged a military campaign to shore up 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 during the second war in Chechnya and took several top positions before being placed in charge of the Russian troops in Syria in 2015.
Under Dvornikov’s command, Russian forces in Syria were known for crushing dissent in part by destroying cities, lobbing artillery and dropping what were often crudely made barrel bombs in sustained attacks that have displaced millions of Syrian civilians.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.