New Ukraine military chief reveals fresh defensive strategy to ‘exhaust’ Russian forces

By Isaac M February 14, 2024

Ukraine’s newly-appointed top military general has said that he will be switching from a strategy of defence, rather than attack, in an attempt to “exhaust” Russian advances.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said the situation was “difficult” but hoped the conflict would soon come to an end.

Speaking to German TV channel ZDF, Gen Syrskyi said: “At this time, the situation can be assessed as difficult.

“The enemy is now advancing along almost the entire front line, and we have moved from offensive operations to conducting a defensive operation.

“The objective of our defense operation is to exhaust the enemy’s forces, inflict maximum losses on him, using our fortifications, our advantages in terms of technology, in terms of using unmanned aircraft, means of electronic warfare, and maintaining prepared defense lines.”

Oleksandr Syrskyi, said the situation was ‘difficult’ but hoped the conflict would soon come to an end

(UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Gen Syrskyi’s remarks come shortly after his appointment to the post by Volodymyr Zelensky, and appear to be in line with the Ukrainian president’s desire for alternate approaches to ending the war.

On 9 February, the day after his predecessor Valerii Zaluzhnyi was dismissed as the chief commander, he laid out his priorities in managing the war.

Among them, he named “a clear and detailed planning,” taking into account the needs of front-line units in new weaponry sent by allies, and “new technical solutions.”

It comes as the US Senate approved a $60bn (£48bn) package of aid for the war-torn country. Mr Zelensky praised the decision, saying: “For us in Ukraine, continued US assistance helps to save human lives from Russian terror. It means that life will continue in our cities and will triumph over war.”

The dismissal of Gen Zaluzhnyi and appointment of Gen Syrskyi reportedly caused some concern for western leaders amid the ongoing conflict.

It followed reports of ongoing tension between Gen Zaluzhnyi and the Ukrainian president, which had apparently lasted for months. The senior military commander had also reportedly refused to step down, though these claims were denied by Mr Zelensky. The Ukrainian military’s much-heralded counter-attack last year was widely seen as failing to live up to expectations.

Gen Zaluzhny had been Ukraine’s commander-in-chief since July 2021 and continues to be a popular figure in the country, enjoying strong support among both rank-and-file Ukrainian soldiers and the public.

Gen Syrskyi said the war with Russia must end with Ukraine securing its borders and all other options “won’t be considered”.

Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and Valerii Zaluzhnyi present a united front at a meeting in Kyiv last week despite reports of tensions between the two men

(UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

When asked why he hopes that Ukraine can soon end the conflict, he told ZDF: “This is based on the fact that we must end it reaching our borders.

“This is the first thing. Because other options are not considered. Because we simply have no other way out. And this means that everyone, the whole society must rally around the common cause – victory.”

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