‘He will kill us all’ – New head of Ukrainian forces nicknamed ‘the butcher’ by his own troops

By John Cody
4 Min Read

The new head of the Ukrainian army, Oleksandr Syrskyi, is known as “the butcher” by his own troops, and there are fears his aggressive style will lead to massive losses for Ukrainians in the east on top of already high casualties.

While President Zelensky claims that Ukraine has suffered only 31, 000 soldier deaths, most analysts, and those in Ukraine, know that number is far from reality. In fact, Ukraine’s ally, the United States, estimates that Ukraine had lost 70,000 men already last summer, on top of many more severely wounded or psychologically traumatized. The number of missing also remains high.

In a new interview with Politico, one soldier who wished to remain anonymous warned about the 58-year-old Syrskyi, saying: “He will kill us all.”

Politico reports that Ukrainian troops reportedly refer to the new commander of Ukraine’s ground forces as someone willing to put his troops in harm’s way to achieve his goals. Syrskyi, who was born in central Russia, is known for his “hard-driving Soviet-style” tactics.

He is filling in the shoes of the former commander of Ukraine, Valeriy Zalushny, who is still well-loved by the troops and who is said to have placed their safety as one of his top priorities. Zalushny had come under criticism for his public statements that he believed the war had reached a stalemate, which some analysts interpreted as a call for a ceasefire and a winding down of hostilities, which is in sharp contrast to Zelensky’s declared goals in the war of reclaiming lost territories.

Zelensky might also have other motives for prolonging the conflict, such as polls showing that he would outright lose the presidency to Zalushny if a fair vote were held. However, March national elections have been canceled, with the excuse that elections cannot be held while the war continues.

Syrskyi’s appointment also comes at a time when there is a sharp debate in Ukrainian society about large-scale mobilization efforts. Ukraine has already lost a significant amount of its population, both due to war and the emigration of the female population. Many of the men most willing to go to the front have long since enlisted or perished in battle, leaving a population of Ukrainians increasingly unwilling to take up arms.

One officer on X posted about Syrskyi’s appointment, saying, his leadership style “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.”

Syrskyi reportedly gained his reputation as a “butcher” due to his willingness to hold the city of Bakhmut against Russian forces at nearly any cost, leading to high Ukrainian casualty rates. U.S. intelligence had long advised that Ukrainian forces should abandon the town, while Syrskyi kept sending more men into the war-torn city.

Zelensky said the city must be held at all costs, which put him at odds with the former General Zalushny, who advocated a withdrawal.

Ukraine reportedly lost a large number of well-trained troops in Bakhmut, while Russia lost large numbers of former convicts who conducted “human wave” assaults on the city.

Nevertheless, Syrskyi can boast some serious victories, including his pivotal defense of Kyiv along with the lightning blitz seen in Kharkiv that drove out Russian forces in the area.

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