Ukraine’s new commander-in-chief is an unpopular ‘butcher’ – Politico
Ukraine’s new armed forces chief, General Aleksandr Syrsky, is deeply unpopular among the rank and file of the Ukrainian military, who view him as a “butcher” willing to sacrifice waves of troops, Politico reported on Thursday.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky named Syrsky as the new head of the armed forces on Thursday, after firing General Valery Zaluzhny from the post. The switch had been the subject of media rumors for several weeks, and Zelensky hinted in an interview last week that it would form part of a wider “reset” of the country’s military and civilian leadership.
Syrsky is a controversial choice, best known for “leading forces into a meat grinder in Bakhmut [called Artyomovsk in Russia], sending wave after wave of troops to face opposition fire,” Politico said.
The unsuccessful defense of Artyomovsk/Bakhmut last year cost Ukraine dearly, and earned Syrsky the nickname ‘butcher’, an anonymous source within the Ukrainian military told the news site. A captain told the outlet that Syrsky’s appointment is a “very bad decision,” adding that soldiers refer to him as ‘General200’, a nickname that Politico said refers to 200 of his men dying, but could also refer to ‘Cargo 200’, a Soviet and Russian military code used to describe corpses being removed from the battlefield.
“General Syrsky’s leadership is bankrupt, his presence or orders coming from his name are demoralizing, and he undermines trust in the command in general,” an anonymous Ukrainian military officer and frontline intelligence analyst posted on X. “His relentless pursuit of tactical gains constantly depletes our valuable human resources, resulting in tactical advances such as capturing tree lines or small villages, with no operational goals in mind.”
“This approach creates a never-ending cycle of fruitless assaults that drain personnel,” the officer said.
In a group chat of Bakhmut/Artyomovsk veterans, one soldier wrote “we’re all f**ked” upon learning of Syrsky’s appointment, Politico stated.
Syrsky takes over command of a depleted military, with Kiev having lost more than 383,000 men since the hostilities started in February 2022, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Prior to his dismissal, Zaluzhny warned Zelensky that a rapid improvement in Ukraine’s position on the battlefield was unlikely, regardless of who took his place, the Washington Post reported last week.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Russia’s campaign against Ukraine will not be affected by Syrsky’s appointment, and that Moscow will continue until its objectives are achieved.