- Russia has appointed General Alexander Dvornikov to lead its Ukraine invasion.
- Dvornikov has been widely dubbed the ‘butcher of Syria’ and had been reported to target civilians in conflict.
- Syrians have reached out to help Ukrainians navigate the atrocities that might come.
Syrians are helping Ukrainians navigate Russia’s aggression specifically after reports that General Alexander Dvornikov has been placed as the Russian military’s new commander.
Olga Lautman, a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis focused on Ukraine and Russia told Insider that following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Syrians witnessing the atrocities and war crimes coming out of Ukraine reached out to assist Ukrainian organizations.
“Mouaz with the Syrian Emergency Task Force had reached out to me a few weeks ago and he told me that Syrians, were watching the images coming out of Ukraine and they were so distressed. They were like this is a repeat of what happened to us So they wanted to find a way to help Ukrainians,” Lautman said.
A coalition called the Syria Ukraine Network was formed between Syrian and Ukrainian organizations. Lautman said she’s connecting Syrian groups, ranging from war crime experts to the White Helmets to Ukrainian organizations on the ground in Ukraine so Syrians can pass along advice and best practices on how to navigate civilian attacks.
“This kind of like a coalition came together just because Syrians saw what’s happening in Ukraine and they were like, ‘my God, we need to help or at least do whatever we can because we went through this,'” she said.
Russia supported the regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria sending troops in 2015, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the same playbook from Syria in Ukraine. Dvornikov played a significant role in the Russian bombardment of Syria. He’s been called the “butcher of Syria,” and has a history of targeting civilians.
The announcement of Dvornikov’s appointment came after a missile attack on a railway station in Kramatorsk that left 50 people including five children dead, on Friday. The attack was just one of many in the course of the war of attacks on civilians.
Lautman said Syrians were concerned about Dvornikov’s leadership in the war.
“We see how similar the two situations are because Putin in Syria decimated cities. What he did, the atrocities that were committed under this general [Dvornikov]. This general is known for his role specifically in targeting civilians,” she said. “The chemical attacks in Syria and the large amount mass graves that were uncovered in Syria — Russia had a lot to do with this and now we see the general being appointed to oversee this. And one of his first tests of him was to send a missile strike on the train station, targeting refugees – Ukrainians who were waiting for trains to leave.
She added that a doctor from the Syrian American Medical Association, which helped build underground hospitals in Syria to treat patients who were wounded or exposed to chemical attacks, went to Ukraine last week to help in hospitals.
“It just goes to show you the strength of Syrians because they saw the atrocities happening and the first instinct was, how can we help instead of, ‘oh my God, we’re really reliving the same thing again?'” Lautman said.
Russia has repeatedly dismissed and launched disinformation campaigns against allegations of targetting hospitals and civilian areas in Syria. In Ukraine, Russia has also denied accusations of war crimes, at one point calling, the massacre in the town of Bucha, a “Ukrainian hoax.”
Lautman said Russia needs to be held accountable, and had the world paid attention to what was happening in Syria, the crisis in Ukraine would have been prevented.
“Russia was committing the most egregious atrocities inside of Syria and somehow the media and governments ignored it,” she said.
She added: “This could have been avoided. I mean, honestly, Russia had been taken care of in 2008, when they invaded Georgia, we wouldn’t have had Syria, Ukraine, and Ukraine again.”
However, she said both Ukrainians and Syrians are hopeful that by collaborating, and the world’s attention on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they could obtain justice for both countries.