When last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded in the Kremlin particularly distinguished servicemen in Syria, few knew that the Hero of Russia, Colonel-General Alexander Dvornikov, who had been awarded the title of Hero of Russia, commanded our military group in this Arab country for almost six months.
Previously, the name of the commander, who held the post of first deputy chief of staff of the Central Military District, was never mentioned in connection with an aerial and even more ground operation against terrorists. And only a narrow circle of people was aware that Dvornikov was sent to Syria, directs our units there and coordinates their interaction with local government troops.
The details of many combat operations developed and carried out under the command of Dvornikov are still classified. But for some of the events of his Syrian mission, the general first told in an exclusive interview to Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Alexander Vladimirovich, let’s recall what was happening in Syria at the time of entering the Russian military contingent there.
Alexander Dvornikov: The group of Russian troops that I led arrived in the Syrian Arab Republic last September with the task of dealing with the situation and the state of the Syrian army on the spot.
I can say one thing: the situation at that time was clearly not in favor of Damascus. Terrorists, whose total number was more than 60 thousand people, occupied about 70% of the territory of Syria. The gangs captured the largest cities of Idlib, Palmyra and Rakku.
Terrorists controlled most of the suburbs of Homs and Damascus, conducted a large-scale offensive in the province of Latakia, prepared the encirclement and capture of Aleppo. A key Syrian route Damascus – Aleppo, connecting the south and north of the country, was under constant threat of blocking the militants.
In addition, government forces were exhausted in four years of military operations and with great difficulty held back the offensive of terrorists. The population left the country en masse.
And what do we have now? What are the results of the military work of our military in Syria?
Alexander Dvornikov: The actions of the Russian group for five and a half months have radically changed the situation in Syria.
The basis for the success of the military operation against terrorists was the coordinated work of Russian aviation in the air with units of government and patriotic forces on the ground. To increase their combat capabilities within the framework of military-technical assistance, we supplied the Syrian army with modern weapons and military equipment. These are artillery systems, communications, intelligence, etc.
In the shortest time, a system of military advisers was established in the Syrian Armed Forces with its administrative apparatus. They successfully solved the task related to the training of government troops, Kurdish and other patriotic groups. Positively affected the situation and the fact that our advisers took an active part in the preparation of military operations.
This joint work has allowed to destroy the infrastructure and supply channels for terrorists, to seize the initiative and move to offensive actions. And they were conducted simultaneously in 15 directions. This forced militants to abandon major offensive operations and move to action in small groups.
It is equally important that the successful actions against the bandits inspired the Syrian people. The Syrians realized that the militants Igil and “Jebhad al-Nusra” (the terrorist organizations banned in the Russian Federation – the note “RG”) can be beaten and defeated.
In addition, a volunteer movement was born in Syrian society, voluntary brigades and battalions were formed. For today against militants in Syria in their structure already several thousand people are at war.
Demonstrative evidence that the patience of the people of Syria has dried up, was the expulsion by simple townspeople of the bandits “Djebhad al-Nusra” from a number of settlements in the central and southern provinces of the country.
Despite the existing disagreements with the authorities in Damascus, the Syrian Kurds took an active part in the fight against terrorists in the north of the country. They continue to conduct military operations against IGIL and “Djebhad al-Nusra”.
That is, all the layers of the population of Syria have risen to the struggle?
Alexander Dvornikov: That’s right. The war against terrorists has acquired a truly nationwide character. And the situation on the fronts has radically changed. Moreover, voluntary detachments played a special role in conducting active offensive operations.
And taking control of key areas in the north-east of the province of Aleppo seriously complicated the supply of militants and the transfer of reinforcements from Turkey through the corridor between Dzherbalus and Azaz. Thus, conditions were created for the defeat of IGIL to the north of Aleppo.
What do we have now? The airbase Kvarez and a number of settlements that were in the siege of terrorists for more than three years have been released. The militants are finally knocked out of the province of Latakia. The coastal areas in which a large part of the population of Syria are concentrated are cleared of terrorists.
In the east of Syria, Palmyra is blocked, fighting continues to free it. Taking this city, which has a special historical and geographical significance for Syria, actually cuts the IGIL group into two parts and opens the way to Rakku and Deir ez-Zor, creating conditions for withdrawal and taking control of the border with Iraq.
In addition, control was restored over three large oil and gas fields, which had previously been a source of income for terrorists.
In the reports of the Ministry of Defense, the names of a number of Syrian provinces – Khama, Homs and Damascus – are often heard. What is happening there now?
Alexander Dvornikov: These provinces are located in the central part of the country. And most of them are cleared of illegal armed formations. There is now the most active process of reconciliation. From a military point of view, it is very important that the largest routes in Syria are taken under the control of government forces.
In general, during the military operation, Syrian troops, with air support, liberated 400 settlements. The potential of terrorist groups has more than halved, they have lost the initiative, and the territory controlled by them has decreased by 10,000 square kilometers.
Do not forget that In Syria, about two thousand terrorists – natives of Russia – have been killed. Of these, 17 field commanders.
These preventive measures against militants are a kind of guarantee for the security of our state and Russian citizens.
A very important result of the military operation, in my opinion, is the increased morale of the Syrian people in general and government troops in particular. Possible disintegration of the country is averted.
The actions of the Russian army in Syria put “on the ears” not only of Western politicians, but also their special services. The relocation of our aviation group at the airfield Khmeimim they perceived as a bolt from the blue. The same sudden, I would say swift, was the return of people and technology to their homeland. How was this achieved?
Alexander Dvornikov: Thanks to the sudden tests of combat readiness, our Armed Forces have repeatedly worked out the transfer of significant military formations over long distances.
Therefore, when an order was issued to deploy the group in Syria, it, as it should, was carried out precisely and in the shortest possible time. Just as quickly and efficiently, its all-round support from the territory of the Russian Federation was established.
The main burden in this case fell on the military transport aviation and the Navy. Since September, more than 640 airplanes and over 80 sea transport flights have been completed.
And the appearance in our army of modern modular structures allowed literally in a matter of days to deploy at the airfield Khmeimim all the necessary infrastructure from the facilities of airfield and technical support, residential and administrative premises to dining rooms and showers.
Almost half a year before your eyes unfolded dramatic events in Syria. Now there is hope for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in this country. How do you assess this prospect?
Alexander Dvornikov: You probably know that the work of the Center for Reconciliation is organized on the territory of the Khmeimim airbase. There are more than 60 Russian officers working there, and most of them are divided into provinces. Despite the recorded violations, the regime for the cessation of hostilities in Syria is generally respected. The process of reconciliation is most active in the provinces of Hama and Homs. We hope that in the near future in these areas the fighting will cease completely.
The main thing is that the process of concluding a cease-fire continues. At the time of my departure from Syria 43 armed forces agreed to the terms of the cessation of hostilities, and the elders of 51 settlements signed the agreement on reconciliation. Their number is growing every day.
At the same time
the artillery shelling of Turkish Kurdish troops fighting against the terrorists “Jebhat al-Nusra” in the north of the province of Aleppo is of concern. These actions actually mean support for Ankara bandit groups trying to disrupt the reconciliation process in Syria.
There is a question that has been exaggerated since the dispatch of our military to Syria. Did they participate in the ground operation?
Alexander Dvornikov: Our military advisers worked and work at all levels, including tactical. These officers assist Syrian colleagues in planning and conducting military operations against terrorists, as well as in mastering Russian military equipment.
I will not hide the fact that the units of our Special Operations Forces operate in Syria. They carry out additional reconnaissance of the facilities for Russian aviation strikes, are engaged in directing aircraft to targets in remote areas, and solve other special tasks.
But we must bear in mind that Syria has various tasks and similar units of the US armed forces and other coalition states.
Now the media is talking a lot about what units will remain in Syria after the withdrawal of the main part of the Russian group. Can you clarify this question?
Alexander Dvornikov: Of course, I will not list the whole group until the last soldier and plane. I will say this: there will remain in Syria the necessary number of forces intended to ensure control over the observance of the regime for the cessation of hostilities. And also for the safe operation of our point of flight support for aviation at Khmeimim and the logistics center of the Russian Navy in Tartus.