Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed a new general to direct the war in Ukraine as the Russian military pulled its troops from the northern part of the country following a failure to take the capital Kyiv, according to a US official and a European official cited by CNN on Saturday.
The officials said Putin appointed Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, the commander of Russia’s Southern Military District, as theater commander of Russia’s military assault in Ukraine.
Dvornikov commanded the Russian military in Syria until Syrian forces gained the upper hand in the brutal civil war. Russia’s operations in Syria were marked by large-scale bombardments including in civilian areas, and the destruction of cities.
Moscow has taken a similar approach in Ukraine. The UK’s Ministry of Defence said in its daily briefing Saturday that Russia’s withdrawal from northern Ukraine in recent days has left “evidence of the disproportionate targeting of non-combatants including the presence of mass graves, the fatal use of hostages as human shields, and mining of civilian infrastructure.”
Russian forces have continued to use IEDs (improvised explosive devices) “to inflict casualties, lower morale, and restrict Ukrainian freedom of movement,” while also attacking infrastructure targets “with a high risk of collateral harm to civilians, including a nitrate acid tank at Rubizhne,” the ministry says in reference to a city in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region which has suffered heavy shelling this week.
At least 52 people were killed Friday in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, where a missile struck a railway station.
Moscow denied responsibility for the rocket attack, which also wounded 109 people, according to the latest official count.
- As Russian forces regroup in the east and south of Ukraine, local officials are urging residents to flee before it is too late.
The European official cited by CNN Saturday said it remains to be seen how effective the new appointment will be.
“The Russian doctrine, the Russian tactics remain pretty much as they’ve been since Afghanistan. They do things in the same old way,” the official added.
More than six weeks after the invasion began, Russia has pulled its troops from the northern part of the country, around Kyiv, and refocused on the Donbas region in the east.
Western military analysts said an arc of territory in eastern Ukraine was under Russian control, from Kharkiv — Ukraine’s second-largest city — in the north to Kherson in the south.
- But counterattacks are threatening Russian control of Kherson, according to the Western assessments, and Ukrainian forces are repelling Russian assaults elsewhere in the Donbas.
Ukrainian authorities have called on civilians to get out ahead of an imminent, stepped-up offensive by Russian forces in the east.
With trains not running out of Kramatorsk on Saturday, panicked residents boarded buses or looked for other ways to leave, fearing the kind of unrelenting assaults and occupations by Russian invaders that brought food shortages, demolished buildings, and death to other cities.