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Russia Names New Commander for Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, receives a picture taken in Syria from Gen. Alexander Dvornikov during an award ceremony at the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, March 17, 2016.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, receives a picture taken in Syria from Gen. Alexander Dvornikov during an award ceremony at the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, March 17, 2016.

With its plans thwarted for a quick takeover of Ukraine, Russia has named a new commander for its continuing assault on eastern Ukraine, a military leader U.S. officials say has a record of brutality against civilians in Syria and other war zones.

U.S. officials Sunday identified the new Russian military commander for Ukraine as Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, 60, one of Russia’s most experienced officers.

The U.S. officials said Dvornikov was sent to Syria in 2015 to buttress the failing forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and led Russian troops there for a year. He was named as Hero of the Russian Federation for his role in Syria and is currently commander of Russia’s southern military district.

But under his command in Syria, Moscow’s forces were widely accused of bombing civilian neighborhoods and hospitals to try to stop rebels from ousting al-Assad.

Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor based in Britain, was quoted by The New York Times as saying, “Bashar al-Assad is not the only one to be held accountable for killing civilians in Syria — the Russian general should too. As the commander of military operations, that means he’s behind killing Syrian civilians by giving the orders.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that “we can expect more of the same” in Ukraine from Dvornikov.

But Sullivan said that “no appointment of any general can erase the fact that Russia has already faced a strategic failure in Ukraine” in not being able to quickly overrun the country and overthrow the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after the February 24 invasion.

“This general will just be another author of crimes and brutality against Ukrainian civilians,” Sullivan said. “And the United States, as I said before, is determined to do all that we can to support Ukrainians as they resist him, and they resist the forces that he commands.”

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