A Russian general, identified in a CNN investigation as responsible for targeting civilians in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and his role as architect of the Aleppo siege, has been embroiled in high-level defense talks with his British counterpart in 2017 after receiving Russia’s highest honor. military honor for his role in his war in Syria.
Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlyov, in his capacity as Deputy Chief of Staff at the time, met with the General Messenger of the Deputy Chief of the Defense Staff of the United Kingdom for high-level talks, during a trip to Moscow in 2017 in what was characterized by the British ministry. of Defense as a “military-to-military dialogue”. Zhuravlyov discussed with Messenger “a restart of military interaction”, 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 taking the reins, the Russian army quickly escalated its attacks on rebel-held territory and completed the siege of the densely populated city, claiming many lives and setting the wheels in motion for a tactic that defined Russia’s intervention in Syria: besiege, starve, bomb and subjugate.
His time in command also saw a dramatic increase in documented cluster munitions attacks in Aleppo.
European intelligence agency analysts who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity said Zhuravlyov’s behavior in Syria and Ukraine is the same, overwhelming cities with terror. “Zhuravlyov was brought in with the aim of bringing about a quick capitulation of Aleppo. He did this using much of the same methodology that we see in Ukraine.
Syrian human rights activists have long called for the Russian general to be held accountable, and a prominent British human rights lawyer from law firm Payne Hicks Beach, Matthew Ingham, told CNN: ” Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlyov should have been sanctioned for his actions in Syria” adding: “It is a pity that there has not been a stronger response to the alleged war crimes at this stage, as this may have affected the calculations Putin’s Ukrainian strategies from the start.
Neither the US nor the UK has taken public action against Zhuravlyov or other key Russian generals implicated in war crimes. The US State Department would not comment on the specific findings of the CNN investigation, but said it continues to monitor and assess ongoing war crimes and reports of violence and abuse. .
In a statement to CNN, the UK Ministry of Defense said a previous statement released in 2017 “made it clear” that they supported military-to-military dialogue to minimize risk and miscalculation.
“We respect this principle, which is why we have given Russia every opportunity to engage in dialogue this year on Ukraine before it launches its reprehensible and unprovoked invasion,” a spokesperson said. of MOD.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report