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Russia-Ukraine war: Veteran of Syria conflict put in charge of Russian military operation

Alexander Dvornikov oversaw Russia's intervention in Syria to prop up the administration of President Bashar al-Assad
General Alexander Vladimirovich Dvornikov, whose experience in Syria is expected to help improve Russia's military performance in Ukraine (Wikipedia)

A general who oversaw Russian military operations in Syria has been appointed to steer the country's invasion of Ukraine, as the conflict continues to risk dragging Russia into a quagmire.

According to western officials speaking to the BBC, General Alexander Dvornikov now has overall charge of the Russian forces in Ukraine.

The official said the general had "a lot of experience of operations of Russian operations in Syria" and said it was expected that this would help "the overall command and control to improve".

Dvornikov was appointed commander of Russian forces in Syria in September 2015, as the country came to the aid there of President Bashar al-Assad in his conflict with rebel fighters.

The intervention is often credited with saving Assad's administration from overthrow and turning the tide of the war, which began in 2011 after government forces opened fire on anti-government protesters.

Russia has repeatedly been accused of launching air strikes on civilian populations in Syria and has faced similar accusations of war crimes to those it is facing in Ukraine.

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According to the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights, tens of thousands of people have been killed by Russian air strikes since 2015.

Dvornikov was given the "Hero of Russia" award on 17 March 2016.

Writing for the Jamestown Foundation in 2016, military analyst Jorgen Elfving described the general as one of the "new rising stars" in the Russian military, though he noted that "increased public scrutiny may not be entirely to his liking, since according to those who know him, he reportedly prefers to remain behind the scenes".

War crimes accusations

On Saturday, evacuations resumed from a town in eastern Ukraine where 52 people were killed after missile hit a railway station.

The station was a major transit hub for refugees attempting to flee the fighting in the city of Kramatorsk.

News of the deaths, which included five children, has provoked outrage internationally, with President Volodymyr Zelensky calling for a "global response".

"This is another Russian war crime for which everyone involved will be held accountable," he said in a video message to EU leaders.

"World powers have already condemned Russia's attack on Kramatorsk. We expect a firm global response to this war crime."

Thousands have been killed in fighting across the country, while more than 11 million have been displaced both internally and externally.

Russia, facing intense resistance from Ukraine, has increasingly shifted away from its original goal of capturing the capital Kyiv and instead focusing on eastern and southern Ukraine.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.