When last week Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded military men especially distinguished in Syria in the Kremlin, very few people knew that Colonel General Alexander Dvornikov was awarded the title of Hero of Russia for almost half a year commanding our military group in this Arab country.
Previously, the name of the military commander holding the post of first deputy chief of staff of the Central Military District was never mentioned in connection with an air and, moreover, ground operation against terrorists. And only a narrow circle of people was aware that the Janitors had been sent to Syria, where they were leading our units and coordinating their interaction with local government forces.
The details of many combat operations, developed and carried out under the command of Dvornikov, are still classified. But the general for the first time told about some events of his Syrian business trip in an exclusive interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Alexander Vladimirovich, let us recall what was going on in Syria at the time of the Russian military contingent entering there.
Alexander Dvornikov: The group of Russian troops headed by me arrived in the Syrian Arab Republic last September with a task on the spot to deal with the current situation and the state of the Syrian army.
I can say one thing: the situation at that time was clearly not in favor of Damascus. The terrorists, whose total number was over 60 thousand people, occupied about 70 percent of the territory of Syria. Gangs captured the largest cities of Idlib, Palmyra and Rakku.
The terrorists controlled most of the suburbs of Homs and Damascus, led a large-scale offensive in the province of Lattakia, prepared the encirclement and the capture of Aleppo. And the key route for Syria, Damascus-Aleppo, connecting the south and north of the country, was under the constant threat of blocking by militants.
In addition, government troops were exhausted over the four years of hostilities and with great difficulty restrained the onslaught of terrorists. The population massively left the country.
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 radically turned the tide in Syria.
The basis for the success of the military operation against terrorists was the coordinated work of the Russian aviation in the air with units of government and patriotic forces on earth. To increase their combat capabilities in the framework of military-technical assistance, we have supplied the Syrian army with modern weapons and military equipment. These are artillery systems, communications, intelligence, etc.
In the shortest possible time, a system of military advisers with their administrative apparatus was created in the Syrian armed forces. They successfully solved the task of preparing government troops, Kurdish and other patriotic formations. The situation was also positively affected by the fact that our advisers took an active part in the preparation of military operations.
This joint work allowed to destroy the infrastructure and supply chains of terrorists, to seize the initiative and move to offensive actions. And they were conducted simultaneously on 15 directions. This forced the militants to abandon large 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 understood that the ISIL and Jabhad al-Nusra fighters (terrorist organizations banned in Russia. - Note RG) can be beaten and conquered.
In addition, a volunteer movement was born in Syrian society, volunteer brigades and battalions were formed. Today, several thousand people are already fighting against militants in Syria.
The indicative evidence that the patience of the people of Syria has dried up was the expulsion of the "Jebhad al-Nusra" bandits from a number of settlements in the central and southern provinces of the country by ordinary citizens.
Despite the differences with the authorities in Damascus, the Syrian Kurds took an active part in the fight against terrorists in the north of the country. They are still continuing to fight against ISIS and Dzhebhad en-Nusra.
That is, all segments of the population of Syria rose up to fight?
Alexander Dvornikov: Exactly. The war against terrorists has acquired a truly national character. And the situation on the fronts has radically changed. Moreover, volunteer detachments played a special role in active offensive operations.
And taking control of key areas in the north-east of Aleppo province seriously complicated the supply of militants and the transfer of reinforcements from Turkey through the corridor between Jerablus and Azaz. This created the conditions for the defeat of ISIS north of Aleppo.
What do we have now? The Quaires air base and a number of settlements that have been under siege by terrorists for more than three years have been released. Militants finally knocked out of the province of Latakia. Coastal areas in which a large part of Syria’s population is concentrated have been cleansed of terrorists.
In the east of Syria, Palmyra was blocked, fighting continues to liberate it. The capture of this city, which has a special for Syria historical and geographic significance, actually dissecting the ISIS grouping into two parts and opening the road to Rakku and Deir ez-Zor, creating the conditions for exit and taking control of the border with Iraq.
In addition, control over three large oil and gas fields, which were previously a source of income for terrorists, was restored.
The reports of the Ministry of Defense often contain the names of a number of Syrian provinces - Hama, Homs and Damascus. 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 groups. 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.
Generally speaking, during the military operation, Syrian troops, with air support, liberated 400 settlements. The potential of terrorist groups has more than doubled, they have lost the initiative, and the territory they control is reduced by 10 thousand square kilometers.
Do not forget that about two thousand terrorists - immigrants from Russia were killed on the territory of Syria. Of these, 17 warlords. These preventive measures against the militants are a kind of guarantee of the security of our state and Russian citizens.
This picture was made by the correspondent of the WG at Hmeimim airbase. Alexander Dvornikov (in the first row - the extreme right), along with our and Syrian generals, escorts the Russian servicemen flying away to their homeland. Photo: Ivan Egorov / RGV Syria, the commander rarely got into the camera lens. Photo: Ivan Egorov / RGFoto: Ivan Egorov / RG
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. A possible collapse of the country has been prevented.
The actions of the Russian army in Syria put "on the ears" not only Western politicians, but also their special services. They perceived the redeployment of our aviation group at the Khmeimim airfield as a bolt from the blue. The same sudden, I would say swift, was the return of people and equipment to their homeland. How was this achieved?
Alexander Dvornikov: Thanks to sudden checks of combat readiness, our Armed Forces have repeatedly worked out the transfer of significant military formations over long distances.
Therefore, when an order was received to deploy a grouping in Syria, it, as expected, was executed accurately and as soon as possible. Its all-round support from the territory of the Russian Federation was also quickly and effectively adjusted.
The main burden in this lay on the military transport aviation and the Navy. Since September, more than 640 aircraft cruises and more than 80 maritime flights have been completed.
And the appearance of modern modular constructions in our army allowed literally in just a few days to deploy all the necessary infrastructure at the Khmeimim airfield, from the facilities of the aerodrome and technical equipment, residential and administrative premises to the 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 rate this perspective?
Alexander Dvornikov: You probably know that the work of the Reconciliation Center is organized on the territory of Khmeymim airbase. More than 60 Russian officers work there, and most of them are distributed across the provinces. Despite the recorded violations, the cessation of hostilities in Syria is generally respected. The reconciliation process 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 truce process continues. At the time of my departure from Syria, 43 of the armed forces agreed with the terms of the cessation of hostilities, and the agreement on reconciliation was signed by the elders of 51 of the settlement. Their number is growing every day.
At the same time, the Turkish military forces of the Kurdish formations fighting against the Dzhebhat al-Nusra terrorists in the north of the province of Aleppo are worried about the shelling. These actions actually mean Ankara’s support of the bandit groups that are trying to disrupt the reconciliation process in Syria.
There is a question that has been discussed since the moment our military was sent to Syria. Did they participate in a ground operation?
Alexander Dvornikov: Our military advisers worked and work at all levels, including at the tactical level. These officers assist Syrian colleagues in planning and conducting combat operations against terrorists, as well as in mastering Russian military equipment.
I will not hide the fact that units of our Special Operations Forces are operating in Syria. They carry out additional exploration of targets for strikes by Russian aviation, are engaged in guiding planes at targets in remote areas, and solving other special tasks.
But it must be borne in mind that in Syria perform various tasks and similar units of the US armed forces, other coalition states.
Now the media talk a lot about which units will remain in Syria after the withdrawal of the main part of the Russian group. Can you clarify this issue?
Alexander Dvornikov: I will not enumerate the whole group to the last soldier and aircraft. I will say this: in Syria, the required number of forces will remain to ensure control over the observance of the cessation of hostilities. And also for the safe operation of our aviation operations center at Hmeimim and the logistics station of the Russian Navy in Tartus.
Alexander Vladimirovich Dvornikov was born on August 22 1961 of the year in Ussuriysk, Primorsky Territory.
He graduated from the Ussuriysk Suvorov Military School (1978 g.), Moscow Higher All-Arms Command School named. Supreme Council of the RSFSR (1982 g.), Military Academy. Mv Frunze (1991 g.) And the Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (2005 g.).
He served in the Far Eastern Military District as a platoon, company commander, battalion chief of staff. In the Western Group of Forces he held the position of deputy, and then commander of a motorized rifle battalion.
In 1995 - 2000, he was regimental chief of staff, regiment commander in the Moscow Military District. In 2000 - 2003 he served in the North Caucasus Military District as Chief of Staff of the Division, and then Commander of the Division.
In 2005, he was appointed deputy commander of an alliance, later chief of staff of an alliance in the Siberian Military District, commander of an alliance (Fifth Red Banner All-Arms Army) in the Far Eastern Military District (2008 - 2010).
In 2011 - 2012 - Deputy Commander of the Eastern Military District. Since April, 2012, Chief of Staff - First Deputy Commander of the Central Military District. Colonel General.
160 more soldiers and officers from the Russian group of troops in Syria returned to their homeland. First, the Il-76 military transport aircraft forwarded them from the Khmeimim airbase to Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport. Then the servicemen reached the garrison of Yurga in the Kemerovo region by vehicles.
According to the press service of the Central Military District, all soldiers and officers who have returned home serve in the Central Military District logistics brigade. In Syria, they filled the aircraft with fuel and lubricants, supplied the military with food at the Khmeimim airbase, provided them with bath-and-laundry services, serviced and repaired the airfield facilities. In addition, these specialists delivered various cargoes from the logistics station of our Navy in Tartus to the Russian air base in the province of Lattakia.
According to the press service of the Central Military District, a total of the Yurga brigade sent more than 200 troops to Syria.
Yesterday, the An-124 Ruslan military transport aircraft flew from Hmeimim to Russia. According to some information, he delivered three Mi-35 helicopters and various equipment to the place of permanent deployment. In Syria, the crews of the "thirty-fifths" mainly guarded the Russian airbase from the air.