President Zelensky and Western media have praised General Oleksandr Syrsky as the ‘Hero of Kiev,’ but among the soldiers, he is known by the far less flattering nickname ‘Butcher Of Bakhmut.’
The mainstream media has devoted the better part of a day to elevating Oleksandr Syrsky, the recently appointed commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, to the status of a contemporary von Clausewitz. They have hailed Syrsky as the commander who was nearly solely responsible for defending Kiev during the initial weeks of the conflict with Russia. What these reports are concealing is this.
The recent decision by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to remove his top general and install Ground Forces commander Oleksandr Syrsky in his place shocked Kiev’s NATO backers in the media. Reactions from legacy outlets included worries that President Zelensky’s new pet general might not be able to “resist political interference in operational matters” and that the military’s trust in Kiev may have been damaged by the replacement of General Valery Zaluzhny with Syrsky.
With Bloomberg, citing his alleged pivotal role in the defense of Kiev “against all odds” at the commencement of Russia’s military operation in 2022, and Business Insider praising his command as a “shocking upset that surprised many who assumed the capital would fall quickly,” other outlets attempted to put a positive spin on the situation and bolster Syrsky’s ego as a brilliant strategist. According to AFP, Syrsky even put an end to “the Kremlin’s” alleged “plans to bring the country to its knees within days.” For the mission, Syrsky was named a “Hero of Ukraine” by President Zelensky.
As numerous media sources have previously acknowledged, Russia’s initial troop pullback from the vicinity of the Ukrainian capital was driven by political motives. It was specifically predicated on the hope that the “gesture of goodwill,” as Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, would assist in resolving the problem before it turned into a violent, full-scale proxy war in the center of Europe. It has nothing to do with Syrsky.
Subscribe to GreatGameIndia
On March 29, 2022, Russia started removing its troops from the Kiev region. Peace negotiations were held in Istanbul, Turkey, on the same day. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey announced ahead of the talks that a compromise between the Russian and Ukrainian negotiators was almost reached, with Kiev agreeing to maintain neutrality and non-blocking status.
However, Zelensky quickly broke his word and halted negotiations as soon as the Russian troops left and Syrsky’s forces entered the area to take their place without a single shot being fired. Russian President Vladimir Putin held up the text of an agreement with Kiev at a meeting with African leaders last June, saying, “After we withdrew the troops from Kiev, as we promised to do, the Kiev authorities, as their masters usually do, threw [the peace deal] in the dustbin of history.” The agreement included security guarantees, “permanent neutrality” enshrined in Ukraine’s constitution, and even information on the size of its standing army in peacetime.
President Putin reaffirmed in his shocking interview with Tucker Carlson on Thursday that Russia decided to retreat from the Ukrainian capital with the hope of reaching a peace agreement.
Tucker Carlson interviewed Putin in Russia, and the interview is available for viewing at tuckercarlson.com, focusing on the conflict in Ukraine.
“My counterparts in France, in Germany, said ‘how can you imagine them signing a treaty with a gun to their heads? The troops should be pulled back from Kiev.’ I said, ‘alright.’ We withdrew the troops from Kiev. As soon as we did so, our Ukrainian negotiators almost immediately threw all our agreements reached in Istanbul into the bin and prepared for a long-running armed confrontation with the help of the United States and its satellites in Europe,” Putin recalled.
In other words, Syrsky “won” his first major battle in NATO’s proxy conflict against Russia solely because of geopolitical considerations, specifically because of Moscow’s peacemaking efforts, rather than saving Kiev “against all odds” during the chaotic first week of Russia’s special military operation.
Syrsky’s luck would stay that way until the fall of 2022, when, as part of an operational regrouping of Russian forces to concentrate forces along a smaller front as additional troops were called up during Russia’s partial mobilization, the commander was praised, once more without demonstrating particularly skillful maneuvers, for the so-called “Kharkov counteroffensive,” which saw Ukrainian forces reoccupy much of the region with almost no resistance as Russian forces withdrew.
At the behest of Zelensky, the commander, unfortunately, saw his good fortune come to an end in the spring of 2023 when he forced wave after wave of Ukrainian troops into brutal battles in the Donbass city of Artemovsk (Bakhmut), losing tens of thousands of men in the process. Nevertheless, Russian troops liberated the city last May after months of bloody street-to-street and house-to-house fighting.
As commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces, Syrsky first boasted that the operation was proceeding “according to plans that were drawn up and approved” in the early weeks of the country’s summer 2023 counteroffensive against deeply entrenched Russian positions in Zaporozhye, Kherson, and Donbass. However, Syrsky quickly changed his tune, stating that “very fast results” would be “practically impossible” and that Ukraine would have to settle for “small victories.”
The latter never materialized as Kiev lost more than 100,000 of its finest soldiers in the counteroffensive, which changed into a “stalemate,” as now-deposed Commander-in-Chief Zaluzhny acknowledged in November. Zaluzhny’s employment was finally lost as a result of this revelation, the general’s popularity among the troops relative to Zelensky, and rumors of attempts to seek a ceasefire with Russia.
Regarding Syrsky, Zelensky and Western media have praised him as the “hero of Kiev,” but among the soldiers, he is known by the far less flattering nicknames “Butcher” and “General 200,” which is a reference to “Cargo 200,” a code term used in the Soviet, Russian, and Ukrainian languages to refer to the transfer of fallen soldiers.
“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. 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,” one flustered Ukrainian commander wrote prior to Syrsky’s appointment as commander-in-chief.
An older trooper explained things better. “We’re all f***ed,” he wrote.