Russia has put general Aleksandr Dvornikov in charge of its invasion in Ukraine as Moscow’s forces regroup after failing to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, according to the BBC and The New York Times.
The BBC was first to report Saturday that the general was appointed to head Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine, citing Western officials.
Prior to Dvornikov’s appointment, no central commander was directing Russian forces on the ground in Ukraine, the Times reported, citing U.S. officials.
A State Department spokesperson told The Hill they would not comment on the general being put in charge of the Russian invasion but said “it’s clear this war has not gone according to plan for Putin – a quick victory has been stymied by Ukraine.”
“This war is taking a very hard toll on the people of Ukraine, but it is also taking a significant toll on Russia’s forces,” the spokesperson said. “This war was a strategic blunder that has left Russia weaker and isolated on the world stage, while the people of Ukraine have inspired the world with their bravery.”
The appointment comes as Russian forces have completely withdrawn from positions in the north of Ukraine, around Kyiv and Chernihiv, after failing to take the Ukrainian capital and even being pushed back as they attempted to capture it.
The troops have moved into Belarus and western Russia to be refitted with weapons and supplies in preparation for an offensive in eastern Ukraine.
“At this juncture we believe that Russia is revising its war aims,” White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said this week. “Russia is repositioning its forces to concentrate its offensive operations in eastern and parts of southern Ukraine rather than target most of the territory.”
U.S. and Ukrainian officials have warned that a coming Russian offensive in Ukraine’s Donbas region will be horrific and bloody.
The Times reported that Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s southern military district, has significant combat experience in Syria, where he commanded Russian forces for a year beginning in 2015.
Western officials and human rights organizations condemned tactics employed by Russian forces in Syria under Dvornikov’s command, according to the Times, including the alleged targeting of hospitals and civilian neighborhoods in attacks.
— Updated at 9:52 p.m.