The general, who defended kyiv and liberated the outskirts of Kharkiv, is the subject of criticism of his methods. Some soldiers even nickname him “the butcher”.
Oleksand Syrsky succeeds the popular Valery Zaluzhny as commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces. This highly anticipated appointment was announced by President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday. There were rumors of growing disagreements over the management of military personnel and tactics. On February 1, Valéri Zalouzhny crossed the Rubicon and publicly stated his point of view near CNN : “We must face a reduction in military support from our main allies”. And the general asked for the mobilization of “450,000 to 500,000 people” to replace exhausted soldiers.
Volodmyr Zelensky, who praised Oleksandr Syrsky as “the most experienced general in Ukraine”asked him “a realistic and detailed action plan for 2024” holding “takes into account the actual situation on the battlefield and future prospects.” The front line, which extends over 1,000 kilometers, seems frozen and solidly fortified by Russia. The failure of the long-awaited spring counter-offensive left a bitter taste. The new commander-in-chief must therefore boost the morale of the troops and find a flaw in the Russian system.
General Syrsky published his priorities on Telegram this Friday: He first wants a general audit of the units’ needs, to facilitate and accelerate arms deliveries, to check the qualifications of military administration personnel. He also wanted “maintain a balance between the performance of combat tasks and the restoration of units and units with the intensification of training”.
If Zalouzhny benefited from the blind trust of his troops, and from strong popularity, the same is not true for Syrsky, nicknamed by some soldiers: “the butcher”. “One hundred percent of them don’t respect him because they think he doesn’t take into account the lives of soldiers”confides a senior Ukrainian officer, on condition of anonymity, nearby Washington Post . “Compared to Zaluzhny, he receives much less support”he added. “For example, in Bakhmout, instead of creating a normal defense, fortification structures, trenches, they simply put people through a meat grinder to stop the assault actions. I think we’ll see more of this bullshit.”added a major who fights on the Eastern Front alongside our colleagues.
A general suspected of being subservient to political power
“His failure to withdraw his troops from Bakhmut in a timely manner earlier this year, coupled with his obsession with retaking it, using Wagner Group tactics, further depletes our resources and has consequences more serious than expected. one could imagine”added a Ukrainian officer on X (formerly Twitter). “Syrsky pushed for the bloody defense of Bakhmut when it was worth getting people out of there. This is a man led by Zelensky.also judged Denys, 34, commander of a mortar battery within the 24th separate assault battalion “Aidar”nearby Kyiv Independent a Ukrainian media outlet.
“General Syrski’s command is bankrupt, his presence or orders coming from his name are demoralizing and he undermines confidence in the command in general. Its relentless pursuit of tactical gains constantly depletes our precious human resources, resulting in tactical advances such as capturing treelines or small villages, without any operational objective in mind.also published the Ukrainian officer on X.
This reputation is old, and acquired before the defense of Bakhmout. Oleksandr Syrsky, born in 1965 in Novinski in present-day Russia, graduated from the Higher Military Command School in Moscow, the largest higher military school in the USSR. Although he participated in the renewal of the Ukrainian army, based on a Western model, he is criticized for remaining with a Soviet military mentality, where human life is counted for nothing. In 2015, the pro-Russians, supported by Russia, inflicted a severe defeat on Ukraine at the Battle of Debaltseve. kyiv’s forces are surrounded, and the authorities negotiate a ceasefire to evacuate the troops. But Syrsky, charged with covering the retreat, ordered the night fight, leading to a deadly race across the fields to reach friendly lines. He already earned the nickname of “butcher”.
In kyiv, in the first days of the large-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, he successfully defended the city, but at the cost of many losses. He imagines an ingenious device taking into account the disparity of forces “by dispersing its units, defending certain strategic areas and using artillery to hinder Russian progression”deciphers Thibault Fouillet, associate researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research for Figaro. This defense, however, is rather credited, as is its victorious offensive in Kharkiv in the fall of 2022 which frees up 12,000 square kilometers. General Syrsky took advantage of a weakness in the Russian system to rush in and force them to retreat.