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Kiev’s new top general explains frontline hardships

Aleksandr Syrsky has been branded a “butcher” for high attrition rates under his command, but is now pledging to minimize losses

The conditions facing Ukrainian troops on the frontline are “very difficult and tense,” the newly appointed top military commander, Aleksandr Syrsky, acknowledged on Wednesday.

The general described his impressions in a post on social media, after visiting the east of the country with Defense Minister Rustem Umerov. Previously, the general told German media that Kiev was changing its approach to the fighting, and would be less willing to suffer losses to defend positions than under the previous leadership.

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General Aleksandr Syrsky (R) looks at a map with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in Kharkov Region, Ukraine, November 30, 2023
Ukraine’s new commander-in-chief is an unpopular ‘butcher’ – Politico

In his post, Syrsky offered few details about Ukraine’s military movements, focusing mostly on the Russian advantage in manpower and munitions. The Russians “are ramping up their efforts and have a numerical advantage in troops,” he said.

Syrsky, who replaced Valery Zaluzhny as Ukraine’s most senior commander last week, has earned a reputation as a “butcher” for showing an apparent disregard to casualty rates, Politico wrote last week. He is known for “leading forces into a meat grinder in Bakhmut [called Artyomovsk in Russia], sending wave after wave of troops to face opposition fire,” the magazine said in its profile of the general. Soldiers have also given him the nickname ‘General 200’, a reference to the Soviet military code for soldiers killed in action.

Speaking earlier to the German TV channel ZDF, Syrsky stressed the importance of conserving soldiers’ lives, saying he would “rather leave a position” than allow casualties. The same intention was expressed in his statement on Telegram on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Ukraine’s new top general reveals major change in strategy

In contrast to that pledge, during the battle of Artyomovsk in early 2023, Syrsky reportedly followed the instructions of President Vladimir Zelensky to hold the location at all costs for political reasons, while US advisors and Zaluzhny urged a retreat. The general at the time was the commander of the Ukrainian ground forces.

February 14, 2024 at 08:29PM

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