A Ukrainian soldier stands watch by a building severely damaged in attacks by Russian forces in the Makariv region near Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 10, 2022.

A Ukrainian soldier stands watch by a building severely damaged in attacks by Russian forces in the Makariv region near Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 10, 2022. dia images via Getty Images / Cem Tekkesinoglu

After Losses, Russia Regroups for the Donbas and Names ‘Butcher of Syria’ Head of Ukraine Ops

A convoy of artillery, aviation support is heading toward Izium. ‘We’re all bracing ourselves’ for what’s next, Pentagon says.

Forty-seven days into its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is regrouping for another battle for the Donbas—and has named a Russian general known for his brutality as head of operations in Ukraine. 

Gen. Alexander Dvornikov has been called “the Butcher of Syria” for the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Aleppo and Homs. 

“Sadly, we can all expect that the same brutal tactics, that same disregard for civilian life and civilian infrastructure, will probably continue as they now focus in a more geographically confined area in the Donbas,” under Dvornikov, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. 

Russia has pulled scores of battalion tactical groups away from Kyiv and moved them into Belarus and Russia to be re-fit with personnel and supplies, Kirby said. 

A new convoy of vehicles captured by satellite imagery over the weekend “seems to be an early effort” to begin reinforcing troops in the Donbas, Kirby said. The images show a convoy approximately eight miles long, made up of personnel carriers, artillery, and other vehicles, he said. 

Dvornikov was previously in charge of Russian military operations in southern Ukraine, which saw more progress than the units stymied in the North, but the entire Russian force has faced logistics issues, an inability to conduct combined arms operations, and morale issues, and has also faced a greater Ukrainian resistance than they had planned for, Kirby said. 

Russian forces are still pressing on Mariupol, which is located on Ukraine’s eastern shore, between Russian-occupied Crimea and Russian-occupied Donbas, which includes the breakaway regions Luhansk and Donetsk.

Mariupol has been under siege for weeks, and while Russian forces have been unable to take the city, Russian state-controlled media outlet RIA Novosti reported Monday that Russian forces now control the port. 

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told members of Korea’s general assembly that “tens of thousands” of civilians have been killed in Mariupol. The Ukrainian defense ministry reported that as of Monday more than 19,500 Russian troops had been killed since the start of operations, though neither figure could be independently verified. 

“Russia wants to dominate and believes it can do this in only one way,” Zelenskyy said to the assembly, in a speech posted to his personal Facebook site. “Sending its army that was brought up in total lawlessness to destroy everything that allows other nations to live.” 

A senior U.S. defense official who briefed reporters earlier Monday said Russia’s push east and the already long siege of Mariupol has officials concerned that Russia’s brutality there will increase. 

“We're certainly bracing ourselves here for some potentially really, really, horrible outcomes,” the official said.