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April 11, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

Russian TV covered recent strike in Ukraine very differently than evidence suggests
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Zelensky: Ukraine could end siege of Mariupol with heavy weapons

Ukrainian forces could end the Russian siege of Mariupol if supplied with heavy weapons, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his video address on Monday. 

“When it comes to the necessary weapons, we still depend on the supply, on our partners. Unfortunately, we are not getting as much as we need to end this war sooner. To completely destroy the enemy on our land. And to fulfill those tasks that are obvious to each of our people. In particular, to unblock Mariupol,” Zelensky said. 
“If we got jets and enough heavy armored vehicles, the necessary artillery, we would be able to do it,” he said, “But we still have to agree on this. We still have to persuade. We still have to squeeze out the necessary decisions. I am sure that we will get almost everything we need. But not only time is being lost. The lives of Ukrainians are being lost. Lives that can no longer be returned.”

Some context: Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said Monday that the “defense of Mariupol continues” amid heavy fighting between Ukrainian forces inside the besieged city and Russian troops and pro-Russian separatists. 

Ukrainian officials have said around 100,000 civilians remain in the city, which has come under heavy bombardment. Ukraine’s defense of Mariupol has tied down Russian units and hampered their efforts to solidify a land corridor from the Russian border to the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

The defense of Mariupol has also been a national rallying point for Ukrainians, and the destruction of the city has become a symbol of Russia’s indiscriminate use of firepower.

On Monday, Zelensky said “tens of thousands” of people had died in Mariupol, a claim that could not be immediately verified. 

Zelensky: Withdrawing Russian forces left mines scattered "everywhere"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In a nightly address to the nation on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian troops retreating from parts of northern Ukraine had deliberately left thousands of mines in their wake, in what he considered a “war crime.”

In those areas, “tens if not hundreds of thousands” of unexploded ordnance had been left behind, he said, adding that teams are working to clear these “dangerous items.” 

The “invaders left mines everywhere,” including in homes, on streets and in fields, he added.   

“They deliberately did everything to ensure that the return to these areas after de-occupation was as dangerous as possible. Due to the actions of the Russian army, our territory today is one of the most contaminated by mines in the world,” Zelensky said.

He called these actions “war crimes” intended to “kill or maim as many of our people as possible,” adding that troops would not have done so without explicit orders from Russia’s leadership. 

US has not confirmed use of chemical weapons, but had previously warned Ukrainians of the possibility

The United States has not confirmed the use of chemical weapons in Mariupol, but had previously warned the Ukrainians that Russia could use chemical agents in the southeastern Ukrainian city, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told CNN Monday.

“Before today, there was credible information available to us that the Russians may have been preparing to use agents, chemical agents, potentially tear gas mixed with other agents, as part of an effort to weaken, to incapacitate the Ukrainian military and civilian elements that are entrenched in Mariupol, using these agents as part of an effort to weaken those defenses,” Price said.

“We shared that information with our Ukrainian partners. We are going to be in direct conversations with them to try and determine what exactly has transpired here, and as soon as we gain additional fidelity, we’ll be in a better position to say what this was or what this may have been,” he said.

Some context: After reports emerged Monday of a possible strike involving chemical substances of some kind in Mariupol, the Ukrainian President warned the possibility should be taken seriously, though a Mariupol official said any such attack remained unconfirmed.

The UK has said it is also working with partners to investigate the reports.

CNN cannot independently verify that there has been any kind of chemical strike in Mariupol. CNN teams on the ground have so far not seen evidence of such an attack, or any imagery from Mariupol sources to verify this.

Ukraine's prosecutor general says office is investigating 5,800 cases of Russian war crimes

The prosecutor general of Ukraine said Monday that her office is investigating 5,800 cases of Russian war crimes, with “more and more” proceedings every day.

Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead,” Iryna Venediktova said Ukraine has identified more than 500 suspects in the sprawling probe, including Russian politicians, military personnel and propaganda agents “who wanted this war, who started this war and who continued this war.”

Her comments come as shocking atrocities in Ukraine, allegedly at the hands of Russian forces, have amplified calls to pursue war crimes charges against Russian President Vladimir Putin. After images of at least 20 bodies strewn across the street in Bucha, Ukraine, emerged earlier this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an end to Russian “war crimes.”

Russia has denied any involvement in the incident, claiming — without evidence — that the atrocities in Bucha were staged, and part of a “planned media campaign.” But witnesses who have spoken to CNN said the carnage in the town began weeks ago, when it was occupied by Russian forces, and a video depicts Russian forces appearing to indiscriminately fire at a civilian.

Read more:

Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova.

Ukraine's prosecutor general says office is investigating 5,800 cases of Russian war crimes

Brittney Griner can receive letters and see her representative in Russia twice per week, ESPN reports

Brittney Griner, an American basketball player detained in Russia, has been able to see her representative in the country twice a week and is able to receive correspondence, ESPN reported on Monday.

Ahead of the WNBA draft on Monday, league commissioner Cathy Engelbert reaffirmed the league’s commitment to bringing Griner home.

“Obviously we’re in a complex geopolitical situation with Russia-Ukraine, and so this continues to be complex,” Engelbert said at a news conference Monday.
“Obviously, we’re getting a ton of support from the government, from specialists. Her representation are able to visit with Brittney, we know she’s safe, but we want to get her home. It’s just a very complex situation right now, and we’re following the advice. There’s not a day that goes by that we’re not talking to someone who has views on what we’ve been doing and how we’re moving forward. I know we’re all frustrated, but we do need to be patient.”

ESPN reports that the WNBA and Griner’s team, the Phoenix Mercury, are in discussions about the player and she will not be suspended this year. ESPN reports Griner will receive her full pay from the Mercury and there is a possibility the franchise will be given roster relief due to her situation.

Read more about Griner’s detention in Russia:

WNBA MVP candidate and All Stars player Brittney Griner during media day before she enters her eighth season with Phoenix Mercury, on May 20, 2019.

US basketball star Brittney Griner is reportedly well and has seen her Russian legal team several times throughout her detention, source says

Reports of chemical attack on Mariupol unconfirmed but should be taken seriously, Ukrainian officials say

After reports emerged Monday of a possible strike involving chemical substances of some kind in Mariupol, the Ukrainian President warned the possibility should be taken seriously, though a Mariupol official said any such attack remained unconfirmed.

In his nightly address Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia might be preparing to escalate attacks on the besieged southeastern city.

“Today, the occupiers issued a new statement, which indicates that they are preparing a new stage of terror against Ukraine and our defenders. One of the occupiers’ spokesmen said that they could use chemical weapons against the defenders of Mariupol. We take this as seriously as possible,” Zelensky said.

Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, posted on Telegram shortly before Zelensky’s address that information about a possible chemical attack “is not yet confirmed,” adding, “details and clarifications later.” 

“In any case, the announcement of the use of chemical weapons made by the occupier is not so simple,” Andryushchenko said. “It is possible that the discharge of an unknown chemical is a test for the reaction in general. One scenario. But we are waiting for official information from the military.”

UK investigates: Also on Monday, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted that she was working “urgently with partners” to investigate the reports of a possible chemical attack in Mariupol.

“Reports that Russian forces may have used chemical agents in an attack on the people of Mariupol. We are working urgently with partners to verify details. Any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict and we will hold Putin and his regime to account,” Truss wrote. 

CNN cannot independently verify that there has been any kind of chemical strike in Mariupol.  

CNN teams on the ground have so far not seen evidence of such an attack, or any imagery from Mariupol sources to verify this.

Ukrainian officials claim strike on Russian weapons depot in Luhansk region

Destruction of the weapons depot is seen in this screengrab taken from video.

Ukrainian officials claim to have destroyed a Russian weapons depot in Novoaidar, Luhansk region.

CNN has geolocated a video and images shared to social media that appear to show the aftermath of that attack.

On Monday, Serhii Haidai, head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said in a Facebook post that Ukrainian forces had destroyed a Russian “ammunition warehouse” near a Russian settlement in Luhansk.  

In a video shared by Russian state media RIA Novosti, Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) People’s Militia officer Roman Ivanov said the Ukrainian strikes on Novoaidar destroyed “more than 20 homes, along with a warehouse filled with chemical fertilizers.”

Haidai denied Russian claims that Ukrainians targeted residential buildings.

Burned out shells and rockets are seen scattered all over the ground in the video and images, and an agricultural equipment store is spotted in the distance.

Pentagon concerned about potential Russian use of riot control agents in Ukraine, official says

The Pentagon cannot confirm reports that Russian forces have used what may be a chemical weapon in Mariupol, Ukraine, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement Monday, but officials remain concerned about the potential Russian use of riot control agents.

The Pentagon is aware of the reports and will monitor the situation closely, Kirby said.

“These reports, if true, are deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine,” Kirby said.

CNN tours Ukrainian villages decimated by Russian troops

In Ukrainian villages east of the capital of Kyiv where Russian forces have withdrawn, residents begin to slowly emerge from hiding and the new reality they’re facing is nothing short of devastating.

CNN’s Clarissa Ward toured a pair of villages that were occupied by Russians for more than a month. She reported that they found “endless accounts of horror, executions, arbitrary detentions and more.”

One local school was taken over by Vladimir Putin’s invading army, used as a base, and left in shambles after being looted and ransacked by the troops.

Bloodstains speckle the main entrance, where the school’s principal is left to wonder how such an atrocity came to be.

“We are for education. Education is the future. Our students,” the woman told Ward. “It’s such a shame that our occupiers didn’t understand this. Why steal everything? This is a school.”

One chalkboard in a classroom Ward visited that was formerly occupied by Russians said, “Forgive us, we didn’t want this war.”

Nearby, a local cemetery houses the bodies of six Ukrainian men who authorities say were executed on the first day the Russians arrived.

“We dug very fast so they wouldn’t shoot us,” a woman told CNN. “But there was shooting over there and heavy shelling.”

A pair of brothers are among the dead, Igor and Oleg. Their mother survived, but now mourns.

“They were very good boys,” she said. “How I want to see them again.”

One Ukrainian mother told Ward her daughter was taken on March 25. More than two weeks later she doesn’t know where she is, or whether she survived the Russians’ invasion.

“They said they found information on her phone about their forces,” the mother told Ward. “They told me she was in a warm house. That she was working with them and she would be home soon.”

But as Ward revealed, “Victoria never came home.”

Amid the risk of certain death, the Ukrainian residents clung to one another, and their sense of pride, with one woman finding solace among blue and yellow stripes, Ward reported.

“We kept it, we kept it,” the woman tells Ward, showing the Ukrainian flag given to her husband for his military service. “We hid it.”

Now the flag can come out of hiding, as Russian forces have retreated. The village is decimated, but for the moment, it’s once again free.

Watch Ward’s on the ground reporting:

Jewish families in Poland open their homes to Ukrainian refugees

Jan Gebert represents one of the many Jewish volunteers in Warsaw, Poland, assisting Ukrainian refugees arriving in the country.

Gebert has opened his one bedroom apartment to host refugees. Since the start of the war, he’s hosted three families.

Gebert lives not too far from where his Jewish great-grandparents lived before the Holocaust. His great-grandmother was separated from her husband and child during the war. She was executed by Nazis at the Treblinka death camp. Gebert’s great-grandfather was sheltered by a non-Jewish family.

His family home now serves as a shelter for refugees.

“We are alive because someone helped us. And thanks to that I can help other people,” Gerbet said.

“It’s our time to do what we needed to have done for us 80 years ago,” Rabbi Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Warsaw, said. Lah reports that the Jewish community in Warsaw has “plunged in” to help with the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, offering everything from child care, housing, to counseling.

Schudrich told Lah that Jewish philanthropies, mostly American, have donated about $100 million to help Ukrainian refugees, regardless of where they are or what their religious affiliation is.

More than 4.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24, according to data from the UN.

Watch Lah’s full report here:

US secretary of state: "India has to make its own decisions about how it approaches" Russia's war in Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Monday.

Standing alongside the Indian ministers for foreign affairs and defense on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a pointed message about supporting Ukraine.

Blinken noted that the United States would continue to call on nations to back Kyiv, “just as we call on all nations to condemn Moscow’s increasingly brutal actions.”

In remarks at a news conference following the US-India 2+2 Ministerial in Washington, Blinken said, “Russia’s war against Ukraine is an attack on Ukraine’s people. It’s also an attack on that rules-based order that we both adhere to and defend.”

The United States, Blinken said, “will continue to increase our support to the government and people of Ukraine and call on other nations to do the same, just as we call on all nations to condemn Moscow’s increasingly brutal actions.”

Blinken declared that Russia’s war “stands in stark contrast to the vision that the United States and India share for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” and noted that Moscow’s actions were having worldwide consequences.

India has continued to purchase Russian oil in the wake of the war in Ukraine and last week abstained in a vote to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

The US secretary of state also said Monday that “India has to make its own decisions about how it approaches” the Russian war in Ukraine and that the US believes “it is important that all countries, especially those with leverage, press Putin to end the war.”

“We, as a general proposition, are consulting with all of our allies and partners on the consequences of Putin’s war, the atrocities being committed against the people of Ukraine,” Blinken said at the news conference following the US-India 2+2 Ministerial.

Blinken said it was important that “democracies stand together and speak with one voice to defend the values that we share — and we do share, profoundly, the values of freedom, openness, independence, sovereignty, and those values need to apply everywhere.” 

The top US diplomat noted that “India’s relationship with Russia has developed over decades, at a time when the United States was not able to be partner to India,” but “times have changed” and the US is “able and willing to be a partner of choice with India.”

“And I would also note that India is providing significant humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine, notably medicines which are very necessary and in real demand,” he added.

Indian Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar said that India is “against the conflict” and “for dialogue and diplomacy” and the “urgent cessation of violence.”

“We are prepared to contribute in whatever way to these objectives,” he said.

Blinken said that “when it comes to oil purchases, sanctions, etc, I’d just note that there are carve outs for energy purchases. Of course, we’re encouraging countries not to purchase additional energy supplies from Russia.”

“Every country is differently situated, has different needs, requirements, but we’re looking to allies and partners not to increase their purchases of Russian energy,” Blinken said.

On oil, Jaishankar said that the world should look to Europe, suggesting that Europe buys more Russian oil than India does.

Blinken said President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “had a very warm and productive conversation,” and “on Russia-Ukraine, they talked about ways of mitigating the profound impact that this is having on global food supplies and prices, commodity markets and working together to achieve that.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who also attended the event, spoke on the importance of the US and India remaining aligned.

“As strategic threats converge, especially following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is more important than ever that” the US and India “stand together to defend our shared values and to preserve the international rules-based order,” Austin said.

Ukraine's top commander: "Defense of Mariupol continues"

Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said Monday that the “defense of Mariupol continues” amid heavy fighting between Ukrainian forces inside the besieged city and Russian troops and pro-Russian separatists. 

“The connection with the units of the defense forces that heroically hold the city is stable and maintained,” Zaluzhny said. “I emphasize that conducting defense operations is not a topic for public discussion. We are doing the possible and impossible to win and save the lives of personnel and civilians in all directions.”

Denis Pushilin, the head of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, said Monday the city’s port had fallen to Russian and Russian-backed forces, Russian state news agencies reported. Those reports could not be immediately verified. 

Ukrainian officials have said around 100,000 civilians remain in the city, which has come under heavy bombardment. Ukraine’s defense of Mariupol has tied down Russian units and hampered their efforts to solidify a land corridor from the Russian border to the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.

The Institute for the Study of War, a defense think tank that tracks military operations in Ukraine, assessed Sunday that “Russian forces bisected Mariupol from the city center to the coast on April 10, isolating the remaining Ukrainian defenders in the southwestern port and eastern Azovstal Steel Plant.”

The defense of Mariupol has been a national rallying point for Ukrainians, and the destruction of the city has become a symbol of Russia’s indiscriminate use of firepower.

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed “tens of thousands” of people had died in Mariupol, a claim that could not be immediately verified. 

Ukraine's prosecutor general: We are seeing crimes against humanity

Forensic scientists and police inspect the bodies of local residents after removing them from a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 11.

Iryna Venediktova, the prosecutor general of Ukraine, discussed her office’s war crimes investigation during a CNN interview Monday. Venediktova said that they are currently building “more than 5,800 cases” and every day are starting “more and more such proceedings.”

Venediktova said that she has made multiple visits to the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where images of mass graves have been observed, and plans to return again tomorrow.

“We are still exhuming the dead bodies from the mass grave. Actually, what we see, now, we see horrors of war, a lot of war crimes, actually, it is not only war crimes. Now we can say… a lot of crimes against humanity,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper during an interview on “The Lead.”

Venediktova was asked on CNN about her office’s report earlier today that found 183 children had been killed and 342 had been wounded since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine. That report cited preliminary figures from juvenile prosecutors.  

“As of April 11, 2022, according to official data from juvenile prosecutors, more than 525 children were casualties in Ukraine as a result of the armed invasion of our country by the Russian Federation,” the statement from the prosecutor general read. “183 children died and more than 342 were injured. These figures are not final, as work is underway in places of active hostilities in the temporarily occupied and liberated territories.”

With regards to the figures, Venediktova described them as “not correct” because they don’t account for the dead in places like Mariupol that are occupied by the Russians. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday, “tens of thousands” of people had been killed in the besieged city of Mariupol, a figure that could not be immediately verified. 

The prosecutor general explained how they are proceeding with probing events in Mariupol since the area is still under Russian control, including how they are getting information from individuals who have been able to evacuate.

“We started to proceed the common case. We don’t know concrete facts. But common case, for example, as a bomb in maternity hospital in Mariupol, drama theater in Mariupol, and all the cases, we started. Because we have some refugees, you know, that people could evacuate from Mariupol. We knew some facts from the witnesses,” she said.

Asked about suspects and potential war crimes prosecutions, Venediktova said that they “want to prosecute these war criminals in our Ukrainian courts, named by Ukraine.” 

“But, of course, for us… it is a lane of international criminal court,” she added, acknowledging the role the International Criminal Court (ICC) plays in these cases.

Venediktova said they are therefore doing their investigations under international law and currently have more than 500 suspects, including top politicians, top military officers and top Russian propaganda agents who they suspect started and continue this war.

The prosecutor general said that they understand that three people in the Russian Federation are now under functional immunity — the president, when he is still president, the minister of foreign affairs and the prime minister. “This is rule,” she noted.

“But from the other side, absolutely possible to take them to responsibility by instruments of international criminal courts,” she told CNN, noting that is why they are documenting all the evidence for “all the big fish” to learn about “who wanted this war, who started this war and who continued this war.”

The International Criminal Court formally opened an investigation into the situation in Ukraine last month. The top war crimes prosecutor for the ICC has traveled to Ukraine to investigate, and the US Embassy in Kyiv argued in the war’s opening days that specific Russian attacks constituted war crimes. Read more about how war crimes prosecutions work here.

Watch CNN’s interview with Ukraine’s prosecutor general:

05:26

Italy signs deal to boost natural gas imports from Algeria and reduce reliance on Russia 

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced Monday an initial deal to increase energy imports from Algeria after a meeting with the country’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in Algiers. 

“Our governments have signed a declaration of intent on the bilateral cooperation in the energy sector,” Draghi said in during a news conference. 

“Immediately after the invasion of Ukraine I announced that Italy would act swiftly to reduce the need for Russian gas. Today’s agreement is an important response to this strategic goal,” he added. 

Additionally, Draghi said an agreement was signed between Italian energy company Eni and Algeria’s national state-owned energy company to implement the export of natural gas to Italy. 

Italy imports about 40% of its total gas consumption from Russia, according to Reuters. 

Ukrainian official: More than 4,000 people evacuated from cities under fire Monday

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 4,354 people have been evacuated Monday from areas where fighting continues, including a few hundred from Mariupol, where Russian forces are tightening their stranglehold. 

Vereshchuk said 556 people had been evacuated from Mariupol and a further 3,298 people from other cities in southern Ukraine, including Melitopol and Berdiansk, which are both occupied by Russian forces.

The evacuees had been taken to the city of Zaporizhzhia, she said.

Vereshchuk said more than 500 people had been evacuated from towns and cities in the Donbas region which have seen near constant shelling in recent days. They include; Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, Rubizhne, Kreminna and Popasna in the Luhansk region, she said. All of the towns have experienced widespread destruction as the focus of the Russian offensive has shifted to the Donbas.

The official said that “for the third day in a row, the occupiers are violating agreements to ensure the passage of a convoy of buses from Zaporizhzhia to evacuate people from Berdiansk (some 80 kilometres from Mariupol), Tokmak and Enerhodar. They keep them at the checkpoint in Vasylivka.”

Ukrainian boy's letter to dead mother read at UN meeting: "Thank you for the best nine years of my life"

During a United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday, Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya read aloud a letter from a Ukrainian child written to his dead mother.

Kyslytsya told the council that the letter was made public in Ukraine “several days ago” and was written by a nine-year-old boy after his mother was killed by Russian soldiers. 

Kyslytsya, who spoke to the Security Council in English, read the letter as follows:

“Mama, this letter is my gift to you on the Women’s Day on the 8th of March. Thank you for the best nine years of my life. Many thanks for my childhood. You are the best mama in the world. I will never forget you. I wish you good luck in the heavens. I wish you to get to paradise. I will try to behave well to get to paradise too.”

Kyslytsya said the boy’s mother was killed by Russian soldiers when they tried to escape from their Russian-occupied town by car. The boy stayed in the vehicle until local residents were able to rescue him and take him to a shelter, the Ukrainian ambassador said.

“Such letters should not have to be written. If they are, it means that something has gone terribly wrong, including here at the United Nations,” Kyslytsya said.

“It would mean its mechanism of maintaining international peace and security aren’t working properly and should be fixed. But could they be fixed while Russia is allowed to use the rights of a permanent member? If we are not able to stop the Kremlin, more and more children will become orphans. More and more mothers will lose their children,” the ambassador read.

France expels 6 suspected Russian spies operating "under diplomatic cover"

France is expelling six Russian agents suspected of working as spies “under diplomatic cover” in the country, according to a French foreign ministry statement released on Monday.  

“Following a very long investigation, the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI) revealed on Sunday, April 10 a clandestine operation carried out by the Russian intelligence services on our territory,” it said in the statement, adding that the activities of the six Russians, who have now been designated as “persona non grata,” were “contrary to our national interests.” 

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin congratulated in a tweet the French security agents involved who “hindered a network of Russian clandestine agents working against our interests.”

The French foreign ministry said that in the absence of the Russian ambassador, “the number two in the embassy was summoned to the ministry this evening to be informed of this decision.” 

Here's what we know about Russia's new general for Ukraine

Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov (center) is seen in this file photo in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on January 18, 2021.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a new general overseeing his war in Ukraine.

Army General Alexander Dvornikov, the commander of Russia’s Southern Military District, has been named as theater commander of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, according to a US official and a European official.

Dvornikov, 60, was the first commander of Russia’s military operations in Syria, after Putin sent troops there in September 2015 to back the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

During Dvornikov’s command in Syria from September 2015 to June 2016, Russian aircraft backed the Assad regime and its allies as they laid siege to rebel-held eastern Aleppo, bombarding densely populated neighborhoods and causing major civilian casualties. The city fell to Syrian government forces in December 2016.

From 2000 to 2003 Dvornikov served in Russia’s lengthy pacification campaign in the north Caucasus, including the Second Chechen War, which left the regional capital of Chechnya, Grozny, in ruins.

Russian forces have used a similarly heavy-handed approach in parts of Ukraine, striking residential buildings in major cities and demolishing much of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

Dvornikov was awarded the title of “Hero the Russian Federation” by the Kremlin in March 2016 for his services.

The appointment of a new overall commander to lead Russia’s war in Ukraine appears to be an effort to remedy another problem that has hampered Russian forces: lack of coordination.