The thick-set 60-year-old career officer, unsmiling and with pale blue eyes, looks every inch a Russian military commander. He is best-known for leading the initial military intervention in Syria in 2015, a campaign hinged around a ferocious bombing campaign that killed an estimated 2,000 civilians, including 200 children.
“Having failed in Ukraine so far, except for committing war crimes, Putin has appointed a new commander, General Alexander Dvornikov, with extensive experience in committing heinous genocidal crimes against defenceless civilians in Syria,” said the Syrian Revolution Network, a group linked to pro-West rebels in Syria.
In the six months that Gen Dvornikov ran Russia’s military campaign in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, his air force conducted 9,000 bombing sorties, destroying large parts of Aleppo, Homs and other smaller towns.
He is known for having helped to devise a Russian strategy to break the will of civilians living in besieged cities by deliberately targeting basic infrastructure such as bakeries, hospitals and water sources.
For Russia and the Assad regime, the approach was a success. His campaign forced Western-backed rebels and Islamic State extremists to pull out, “liberating” huge areas for Assad and impressing Putin, who awarded Gen Dvornikov the top military medal Hero of Russia when he returned to Moscow.
The Kremlin has not commented on Gen Dvornikov’s promotion.
Meanwhile, Russia staged war games involving up to 1,000 troops in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. Moscow this week warned against any potential action against the territory, saying “this would be playing with fire.”