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14 Feb, 2024 14:59

Frontline situation ‘difficult’ – Ukraine’s new top general

Aleksandr Syrsky has been branded a “butcher” for high attrition rates under his command, but is now pledging to minimize losses
Frontline situation ‘difficult’ – Ukraine’s new top general

Ukrainian troops are facing “very difficult and tense” conditions on the frontline of the conflict with Russia, Kiev's 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. The general previously told German media that Kiev is changing its approach to the fighting, and will be less willing to suffer losses to defend positions than under the previous leadership.

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 for casualty rates, Politico reported 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 public TV channel ZDF, Syrsky stressed the importance of conserving soldiers’ lives, saying he would “rather leave a position” than suffer casualties. The same intention was expressed in his statement on Telegram on Wednesday.

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.