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.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking on American broadcaster CNN’s State of the Union program Sunday, played down the significance of the general’s appointment.
“What we have learned in the first several weeks of this war is that Ukraine will never be subjected to Russia,” Sullivan said. “It doesn’t matter which general President Putin tries to appoint.”
Western military analysts say Russia’s assault was increasingly focusing on a sickle-shaped arc of eastern Ukraine – from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in the north to Kherson in the south. However, the airport in Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city and located farther west, was hit by missile attacks twice on Sunday, according to the regional governor.
Newly released Maxar Technologies satellite imagery collected on Friday showed a 13-kilometre-long convoy of military vehicles headed south to the Donbas, recalling images of a convoy that got stalled on roads to Kyiv for weeks before Russia gave up on trying to take the capital.
On Sunday, Russian forces shelled Ukraine-controlled Kharkiv and sent reinforcements toward Izyum to the south-east in a bid to break Ukraine’s defences, the Ukrainian military command said.
The Russians also maintained their siege of Mariupol, a key southern port that has been under attack and surrounded for more than a month.
A Russian Defence Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said Russia’s military used air-launched missiles to hit Ukraine’s S-300 air defence missile systems in the southern Mykolaiv region and in Chuhuiv, a city not far from Kharkiv.
Russia’s sea-launched cruise missiles also destroyed the headquarters of a Ukrainian military unit stationed farther west in the Dnipro region, Konashenkov said. Neither the Ukrainian nor the Russian military claims could be independently verified.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for stronger military and political support from the West.
In a late night video message on Saturday, Zelensky argued that more than Ukraine’s future was at stake: Russia’s aggression “was not intended to be limited to Ukraine alone” and the “entire European project is a target,” he said.
Zelensky also thanked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv on Saturday.
On Sunday, the Ukrainian president spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz by phone.
Zelensky said on Twitter the pair spoke about additional sanctions, as well as more defence and financial support for his country.
He had earlier renewed his calls for a total ban on Russian energy products that were in effect funding Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The EU on Friday banned Russian coal imports, among other products, but has yet to touch oil and gas imports.