Russia has appointed the former commander of its Syria campaign to lead the military invasion of Ukraine, as it pulls back from its offensive on the capital Kyiv.
According to Western security officials and diplomats, General Alexander Dvornikov has been appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to lead Moscow's strategy for carrying out the capture and securement of the east of Ukraine.
The appointment comes a month and a half after the launch of Putin's invasion, and is a result of the failed offensive on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, which was foiled and repelled by Ukrainian forces earlier this month after suffering massive casualties.
Now, Moscow has decided to focus its efforts on securing the east and south of the country, where the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk are located, as well as strategic areas such as the port city of Mariupol.
Dvornikov is reported to be amongst the most advanced and seasoned generals at Putin's disposal. He is seen as the ideal candidate for the job, with experience commanding a division that successfully stormed the Chechen capital Grozny in 1999 and 2000, leading Russia's military assistance to the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad in 2015 and 2016, and having a prominent role in Russia's occupation of Ukraine since 2014.
His role in Syria in particular has made him infamous, giving him the nickname the "Butcher of Syria" after he applied the same tactics used in Grozny on the major city of Aleppo in 2016: the laying of a siege, the bombardment of all infrastructure, the killing of civilians and starvation of the population, and then the entrance of ground forces into the ruined city after its devastation.
Russian forces have tried to apply similar tactics in the invasion of Ukraine, but it has been a decentralised and scattered attempt. Many analysts assert that the appointment of Dvornikov is to rectify that by centralising all of those operations under his command and supervision. Those analysts, as well as western officials, also predict that it means ever more brutal atrocities will be conducted against the Ukrainian population.
On Monday, the US White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that Dvornikov "is a general who is already responsible for overseeing atrocities in Syria. We would expect that there will be a continuation of the type of atrocities that we have already seen take place in Ukraine."
The spokesperson for the Pentagon, John Kirby, echoed those comments and said: "He and other high-ranking Russian leaders have shown in the past, and particularly in Syria, their contempt for preventing harm to civilians, their utter disregard in many ways for the laws of war, the laws of the armed conflicts and the brutality with which they conduct and prosecute their operations." He predicted that "We can certainly say by what we have seen in the past, that we are probably turning another page in the same book of Russian brutality."