Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reported appointment of a new general known as the «Butcher of Syria» to oversee the invasion of Ukraine is a choice that shows the Biden administration exactly what to expect as Moscow’s bloody aggression continues, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday.
Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s southern military district (SMD), was reported to be Putin’s pick as the new commander to lead operations in Ukraine. U.S. officials have said the 60-year-old general has a record of brutality against civilians in Syria and other theaters of war.
Psaki appeared on «Fox News Sunday» and addressed what the reported appointment of Dvornikov could mean as global concerns grow over the bloodshed in Ukraine.
«The reports we are seeing of a change in military leadership and putting a general in charge who is responsible for the brutality and atrocities we saw in Syria shows there’s going to be a continuation of what we’ve seen on the ground in Ukraine and that is what we are expecting,» Psaki said.
Dvornikov gained prominence as head of Russian forces that Moscow deployed to Syria in 2015 to shore up President Bashar Assad’s regime amid the country’s devastating civil war.
Russian authorities do not generally confirm such appointments, and have said nothing about a new role for Dvornikov, who received the Hero of Russia medal, one of the country’s highest awards, from President Vladimir Putin in 2016.
The reported new battlefield leadership comes as Russia gears up for what is expected to be a large and more focused push to expand Russian control in the Donbas after failing to conquer the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. It also follows Russian leadership’s rare public admission of heavy military losses.
«Rarely do they acknowledge, from the Russian leadership, any elements of weakness or any elements of defeat,» Psaki said, adding that it is also significant that the Ukrainians have «essentially won the battle of Kyiv.»
«They’ve protected their city, and that is because of their bravery, their courage, but it is also because of the supplies, the military equipment, everything we’ve expedited: $1.7 billion worth from the United States and the commitment and dedication of the American people to this war,» she continued.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appealed for stronger military and political support from the West.
Psaki said that the U.S. is continuing to review every request from Ukraine and is working with allies to meet the country’s needs.
«We’re going to continue to do that so we can equip them on the battlefield and continue the success to date,» she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.