It had been almost a week since the probable dismissal of the popular army chief had been on everyone’s lips in Ukraine. The dismissal of Valery Zalouzhny, whose confidence rating exceeds 90% in the country, was finally recorded on Thursday February 8, 2024 against a backdrop of strong tensions with Volodymyr Zelensky.
Read also: War in Ukraine: the popular commander-in-chief Zaluzhny replaced by General Syrsky
In order to “reset” the command system – and to do without a leader whom he blamed for the lack of progress on the front – the Ukrainian president announced that he would replace the now former commander-in-chief of his armies with Oleksandr Syrsky, a lesser-known general but “the most experienced in Ukraine” in his words.
Little known, poorly perceived, man of the Soviet school… Here are four things to know about Oleksandr Syrsky.
1. He is far from being a national icon…
Oleksandr Syrsky, 58, is not a national icon: he has neither the popularity nor the notoriety of his legendary predecessor. According to a survey published in December, 48% of respondents said they did not even know him.
Not very charismatic, the 58-year-old soldier very rarely makes the headlines, unlike Valery Zaloujny and Volodymyr Zelensky. He tends to use dry official communications. But he is not an office man, according to his services.
He is “one of the rare high-ranking commanders to regularly go to the front line”indicates in this sense to theAFP the spokesperson for the Eastern Front, Illia Ievlach. The army also readily broadcasts images showing him armed and helmeted even in the trenches, shaking hands or laughing with soldiers.
For his part, the Head of State praised his new confidant, the “Ukraine’s most experienced general”asking him for a plan “realistic” for 2024.
2. …but is a key figure in the Ukrainian army
General Syrsky, although less well known than his predecessor, is nonetheless a key figure in the Ukrainian army. Former head of the army, the new commander of the Ukrainian forces’ particular feat was the defense of kyiv at the start of the Russian invasion, participating in the failure of the Kremlin’s plan to force Ukraine into submission. A few days.
At the beginning of April 2022, a few days after the retreat of the Russians from the kyiv region, Volodymyr Zelensky presented his general with the title of “Hero of Ukraine”, the highest national distinction. In his decree, the head of state salutes his “personal courage”.
Six months later, in the fall of 2022, it was still Oleksandr Syrsky who was in charge when the Ukrainian army inflicted a second humiliation on Moscow by chasing the invader from the Kharkiv region, in the northeast of the ‘Ukraine.
3. He seems “little concerned about human losses”
Some criticize Oleksandr Syrsky for an approach too similar to that of the generals of the USSR and for being distant. Very discreet about his personal life, he is married and father of two sons, according to an army spokesperson.
“Syrsky is poorly perceived […] he is a man of the Soviet school”commented this week to theAFP a Ukrainian sergeant with the nom de guerre “Lountik”, who had defended kyiv before being deployed in the East.
The influential information site Ukraïnska Pravda criticizes him for not being sensitive to losses. He “has built a reputation as a man who values getting things done more than how many lives he sacrifices to do so”wrote the site this week.
Like most of the high-ranking officers of his generation, Oleksandre Syrsky, who was born in 1965 in the USSR, in the Vladimir region, today in Russia, studied at the command school of the Red Army in Moscow.
4. It was deployed in Ukraine as early as the 1980s
From the 1980s, it was deployed in Ukraine, at the time still a republic of the USSR. But when the Soviet empire fell, he did not return to Russia, joining the ranks of the newly independent Ukraine’s newly formed army and continuing his studies at the National Defense University in kyiv.