Oleksandr Syrskyi, known for defending Kyiv, replaces Valerii Zaluzhnyi, who has had disagreements with President Volodymyr Zelenskyi.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi has been appointed as the new commander of the country’s armed forces by the commander of the ground forces To Oleksandr Syrskyi.
Syrskyi replaces the commander of the armed forces from 2021 To Valerii Zalužnyi.
The news agency Reuters and Ukrainian online media report on the matter, among others The Kyiv Independent.
– [Syrskyillä] has successful defense experience – he was responsible for the defense operation in Kyiv. He also has successful offensive experience – namely, the operation to liberate Kharkiv, Zelenskyi said in a televised speech.
Zelenskyi says in the community service X that he thanked Zalužnyi for his service in defending Ukraine against Russia. The president also says that the leadership of the armed forces needs reform.
– The time for reform is now. I suggested to General Zalužny that he could continue in the leadership team. We will win for sure! Glory to Ukraine, Zelenskyi writes.
Zalužnyi, on the other hand, says on social media that he had an “important and serious conversation” with Zelenskyi.
– The challenges of 2022 were different from those of 2024. So everyone has to change and adapt to the new reality. We will win together, the general writes.
Led successful counter-attacks
Syrskyi, 58, was born in Vladimir, Soviet Union, and has lived in Ukraine since the 1980s. He received his military training in Moscow.
Syrskyi was appointed commander of the ground forces in 2019. He had previously, among other things, led Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the eastern Ukraine war that began in 2014.
Some of Ukraine’s biggest victories were realized under Syrskyi. During the first months of Russia’s full-scale war of aggression, the forces commanded by Syrskyi successfully defended the Kiev region. In April 2022, Syrskyi received the Hero of Ukraine medal, which is Ukraine’s highest possible medal of honor.
In July 2022, Syrskyi planned and executed a counteroffensive that pushed Russian forces back from the Kharkiv area, and Ukrainian forces recaptured areas from the east and south.
Syrskyi also led the defense in Bahmut, where Russia and Ukraine fought the bloodiest battles of the war. Months of fighting claimed a huge number of military casualties. Syrskyi has defended the battles of Bahmut on the grounds that they tied the forces of the Wagner mercenary army, important for Russia, to the area and thus slowed down Russian warfare.
Argument behind the scenes
Rumors of Zelenskyi’s plans to fire Zalužnyi have been circulating for weeks. Known as the “Iron General”, Zalužnyi is very popular in Ukraine, but he has publicly disagreed with Zelenskyi on issues related to warfare.
The dismissal of Zalužnyi has been considered a daring threat, as Ukrainian politics and the leadership of the army are arguing about, among other things, reforming the mobilization law. The dismissal of Zalužnyi is estimated to affect the fighting spirit of the soldiers and destabilize Zelensky politically.
In opinion polls, Zaluzhnyi’s trust among Ukrainians has been as high as over 90 percent, while Zelensky’s trust was 77 percent at the end of last year.
According to a poll published in December 2023, 72 percent of Ukrainians would not accept Zalužnyi’s resignation.
Corrected on February 8, 2024 at 9:46 p.m.: Corrected Syrskyi’s age from 59 to 58.