A Russian general, identified in a CNN investigation as being responsible for targeting civilians in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and his role as architect of the siege of Aleppo, engaged in high-level defense talks with his UK counterpart in 2017 after receive the highest recognition of Russia. military honor for his role in the war in Syria.
Colonel-General Alexander Zhuravlyov, in his capacity as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, met with the Deputy Chief of Defense General Staff Messenger of the United Kingdom for high-level talks, during a trip to Moscow in 2017 in what was characterized by the UK Ministry. of Defense as “military-to-military dialogue”. Zhuravlyov discussed with Messenger “a restart of military interaction,” the Russian state news agency TASS reported on February 28, 2017, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.
CNN’s investigation found that Zhuravlyov’s leadership in 2016 catalyzed the assault on eastern Aleppo. After he took the reins, the Russian military quickly intensified its attacks on rebel-held territory and completed the siege of the densely populated city, demanding a large death toll and launching a tactic that has defined Russia’s intervention. in Syria: besiege, starve, bomb and crush into submission.
His period of command also saw a dramatic increase in documented cluster munition attacks in Aleppo.
Analysts from the European intelligence agency who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity said Zhuravlyov’s pattern of behavior in Syria and Ukraine is the same, subjugating cities through terror. “Zhuravlyov was hired for the purpose of bringing about a quick capitulation of Aleppo. He did it using much of the same methodology that we see in Ukraine. Ordering the indiscriminate use of cluster munitions against dense infrastructure and civilian populations,” the analyst said.
Syrian human rights activists have long called for Russia’s general to be held accountable, with a leading UK human rights lawyer at the Payne Hicks Beach law firm, Matthew Ingham, telling CNN: “Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlyov should have been punished for his actions in Syria. And he added: “It is a pity that there was not a stronger response to the alleged war crimes at that stage, because that may have affected Putin’s strategic calculations in Ukraine from the beginning.”
Neither the US nor the UK have taken public action against Zhuravlyov or other key Russian generals implicated in war crimes. The US State Department did not comment on the specific findings of the CNN investigation, but said they continued to track and assess ongoing war crimes and reports of violence and abuse.
In a statement to CNN, the UK Ministry of Defense said an earlier statement issued in 2017 “made it clear” that they supported military-to-military dialogue to minimize risk and miscalculation.
“We respect that principle, which is why we gave Russia every opportunity to engage in dialogue this year on Ukraine before they launched their reprehensible and unprovoked invasion,” a MOD spokesman said.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report