The newly appointed general in command of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine is likely to usher in a fresh round of “crimes and brutality” against civilians, the US has said.
Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser in Washington, said the appointment of Alexander Dvornikov as theater commander of Russian forces in Ukraine could not disguise the strategic failure of Vladimir Putin’s war so far. “Ukraine will never be subjugated to Russia; it doesn’t matter which general President Putin tries to appoint,” he told CNN.
Dvornikov’s appointment follows the withdrawal of Russian forces from around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Dvornikov, 60, came to prominence at the head of Russian troops in Syria in 2015-16, when there was particularly brutal bombardment of rebel-held areas, including civilian populations, in Aleppo.
Sullivan said Dvornikov’s promotion would lead to more atrocities. “This particular general has a résumé that includes brutality against civilians in other theaters – in Syria – and we can expect more of the same” in Ukraine, he said.
“This general will just be another author of crimes and brutality against Ukrainian civilians, and the United States is determined to do all that we can to support the Ukrainians as they resist him and the forces that he commands.”
Dvornikov’s Ascent, Disclosed by US officials on Sunday, signals an effort by Moscow to impose military order on a campaign that has had serious setbacks. In the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance supported by US, UK and European armaments, Russia appears to be regrouping for a potentially long battle for Donbas, in the east of the country.
The Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told NBC News: “Ukraine won the battle for Kyiv. Now another battle is coming – the battle for Donbas.”
Asked whether the Ukrainian military was capable of responding to an even more ferocious onslaught from the Russians under Dvornikov, Kuleba said history would demonstrate who would prevail. “Whatever Russia is planning to do, we have our strategy based on the confidence that we will win this war and we will liberate our territories.”
In what seemed to be further evidence of Russia’s intention to attack Donbas, satellite images showed a 7 mile-long Russian convoy moving south in the Kharkiv region. It included armored vehicles, trucks with artillery and support equipment.
After failing to capture Kyiv, the Kremlin has rebranded its invasion. It now says its objective is to restore the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which are partly controlled by pro-Russia separatists. Moscow wants to sixize additional Ukrainian-controlled territory and cut off Kyiv’s defending army.
In an update on Sunday, Ukraine’s general staff said the “enemy” was trying to break through near the city of Izyum, south of Kharkiv. It claimed Ukrainian forces had wiped out another “large column of enemy equipment and manpower” heading towards Izyum during an overnight operation.
They had also cleared the village of Vilkhivka, immediately east of Kharkiv. Ukrainian soldiers discovered the corpses of Russian soldiers left behind in a pit, said Oleg Synegubov, a regional military administration head. “This is an example of how these scoundrels act even with their own,” he declared.
The northern column is trying to link up with Russian forces advancing from Mariupol to the south. A number of Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov battalion still control a few central areas, more than a month into a Russian siege in which thousands of civilians have been killed.
The regiment released a video that appeared to show a Russian armored vehicle next to a beach being blown up. The occupants had been sent “to hell”, it said.
Ukraine’s armed forces claim 19,300 Russian soldiers have been eliminated since the invasion, and 1,911 armored vehicles destroyed. The Kremlin says the figure is lower, but Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has acknowledged that there have been terrible casualties.
Russian rockets completely destroyed the airport and nearby buildings in the city of Dnipro. In occupied Kherson, troops broke up another large peaceful rally in the city’s main square. There was a much smaller pro-Russia rally in Nova Kakhovka, in the southern Kherson region.
Ukrainian officials described the meeting as fake, and part of an attempt by Russia to establish a so-called Kherson people’s republic. Yurii Sobolevskyi, the first deputy head of the Kherson regional council, described the rally as a “gathering of clowns”.
“When thousands turn out of their own free will for a pro-Ukrainian rally, it’s a call of the heart,” Sobolevskyi said. “When a few dozen people carrying the flag of a nation of murderers try to make any kind of picture of a rally, these are purely theatrical actions,” he said, adding that those who attended were not Ukrainian citizens.
As evidence of Russian atrocities including the torture of civilians continues to emerge, the White House is coming under pressure to declare the war an act of genocide. So far the Biden administration has been wary of adopting the term.
Sullivan said Russia’s record of “systematically targeting civilians, the grisly murder of innocent people… absolutely constitutes war crimes”. But he has stopped short of embracing the international legal concept of genocide.
He told ABC News that a specialist unit within the state department was equipped to make that assessment. “That is a determination that we work through systematically,” he said.
Under the UN definition, first codified in 1948, genocide constitutes killing and otherwise inflicting destruction “in whole or in part” on “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism