Alexander Dvornikov, the commander of the Russian Army's southern military district, is pictured far right with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) in 2020 onboard the Marshal Ustinov missile cruiser watching drills in Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine in 2014. File Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/EPA-EFE
April 9 (UPI) -- Moscow has tapped Gen. Alexander Dvornikov to lead the Russian invasion of Ukraine amid a reorganization to unify the military command structure and change its war tactics, reports said Saturday.
Senior Western officials, who were not identified, have told The New York Times and the BBC that Dvornikov, the commander of Russia's southern military district, has been selected to oversee the poorly coordinated Russian troops which have suffered incredible resistance from Ukrainian forces
.It was not immediately clear if the sources that spoke with both outlets are the same source and Russia has not yet confirmed the leadership change.
Russian forces have struggled to achieve their military objectives in Ukraine such as capturing the capital of Kyiv because the country's troops had been commanded from Moscow without a central leader on the battlefield, a senior U.S. official told The New York Times.
The senior official who spoke with the BBC confirmed that each Russian unit had previously been commanded separately. Dvornikov will now unify the Russian forces under a central commander in Ukraine.
"That particular commander has a lot of experience of operations of Russian operations in Syria. So we would expect the overall command and control to improve," the source told the BBC.
The appointment of Dvornikov, who has been described as the "Butcher of Syria" and one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's favorite generals, has also raised concerns that the war in Ukraine will turn bloodier.
Dvornikov gained notoriety in 2015 for ordering the bombings of Aleppo which killed thousands of people including 200 children, The Telegraph noted. He also helped develop Russia's strategy for targeting civilian infrastructure like bakeries and hospitals.
The Institute for the Study of War, a thinktank based in Washington, D.C., said in a report analyzing the lessons learned by the Russian military in Syria that Dvornikov had previously said that demoralization and command inefficiency were pervasive in the Syrian Arab Army throughout that conflict.
After Syria, Russian military leaders including Dvornikov determined that Russia had "effectively coordinated precision strikes with tactical units in urban operations, using both aircraft and Kalibr cruise missiles in a close-support role," according to the thinktank.
"Russian officers and analysts additionally highlight Russia's ability to disrupt enemy supply lines and logistics with precision weapons as a key lesson from Syria," the report reads. "Dvornikov credited the coordinated Russian effort to destroy anti-Assad supply chains with disrupting opposition offensive capabilities and giving the pro-regime coalition the operational initiative in early 2016."
News of Dvornikov's appointment came as a Russian missile strike on a crowded train station in eastern Ukraine where dozens of people were killed as thousands were waiting to evacuate.
The Syrian Revolution Network, a group that has opposed the Russian-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad, condemned Russia for its appointment of Dvornikov over troops in Ukraine and the general's "genocidal" tactics.
"Having failed in #Ukraine so far, except for committing war crimes, Putin has appointed a new commander of the Southern Military District, General Alexander Dvornikov, with extensive experience in committing heinous genocidal crimes against defenseless civilians in #Syria," the group tweeted.
Dvornikov has led the southern military district since 2016. He has been awarded the title Hero of the Russian Federation by the Kremlin.