There is speculation he may have been purged (Picture: Getty; Reuters)

Russia’s top commander in Ukraine hasn’t been seen for two weeks and may no longer be in charge of the invasion, US officials have claimed. 

General Aleksandr Dvornikov, an accused war criminal who helped Syria’s president Assad gas his own people, was appointed by Putin in April after troops gave up on their blundering assault of Kyiv to refocus efforts on the Donbas.

The move was considered by experts to be an acknowledgement that his bloody war was failing.

General Dvornikov tried to get disjointed air and land units to coordinate their attacks, Pentagon officials told the New York Times.

However, the new commander has not been seen for a fortnight, leading some US officials to speculate whether he has been purged.

The officials said the ‘demoralised’ Russian army is continuing to demonstrate the same mistakes in the east it did in the early weeks of the war, when it was forced to abandon its push to take the capital city.

General Aleksandr Dvornikov is an accused war criminal (Picture: Reuters)

Although they have captured some territory in the Donbas, the insiders said that their ‘plodding and incremental’ pace was wearing them down, and that the military’s overall fighting strength had been reduced by about 20%.

Meanwhile, Russia still has not established any kind of air superiority because ‘risk averse’ pilots are refusing to fight in Ukranian airspace, instead preferring to fire missiles and quickly exit due to fears of being shot down.

Officials noted that Ukraine has also suffered setbacks, with up to 100 soldiers believed to be dying every day as Russian troops advance on Severodonetsk.

It is thought Moscow is looking to forge a corridor into Crimea after seizing the strategic port city of Mariupol last month.

However, Russia’s haphazard approach means anywhere it does seize is often quickly contested again, such Kharkiv.

More: Russia-Ukraine war

Ukraine is now pushing Russian troops north and east from the second largest city, ‘in some cases all the way back to Russia,’ according to retired Gen. Philip Breedlove, the former supreme allied commander for Europe.

‘So now Ukrainians are threatening to cut off Russian lines of supply and pushing their forces to the rear,’ he said.

Officials said Dvornikov’s appointment did result in attacks on land and air becoming more streamlined.

But, according to observers, he has been unable to fix ‘fundamental flaws’ in how the Russian army functions.

Russia’s military follows a Soviet-style method where troops at the bottom can’t point out mistakes in strategy or suggest changing tactics.

Although Russia has pounded cities and villages with a barrage of artillery, troops have not followed this up with any kind of sustained armored invasion, which is necessary if they want to hold territory, military officials said.

It has previously been reported that Russian generals are turning on themselves over the failing invasion, with a number of top commanders purged by Putin.

An analysis of the war by UK experts said there was evidence officials in the Kremlin tried to convince him the invasion has been a disaster.

However, Putin sees losses of around 30,000 troops as ‘worth it’ to achieve his goal of seizing the Donbas.

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