Photo: Efrem Lukatsky Associated Press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in discussion with the new commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian forces, Oleksandr Syrsky, on November 30. Mr. Syrsky was then commander of the army.
Victoria Lukovenko – Agence France-Presse to kyiv
February 9, 2024
The dismissal, in the midst of war with Russia, of the very popular Valery Zalouzhny, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armies, arouses regret and concern among civilians and soldiers, interviewed by AFP on Friday, at kyiv or on the front.
President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Thursday the replacement of General Zalouzhny, in office before the Russian invasion of February 2022, by Oleksandr Syrsky, until then commander of the ground forces.
“In my opinion, this is inappropriate and wrong. Because (Zaluzhny) is the only person who really thought about Ukraine,” said Olga Krut, 33, a resident of kyiv and on maternity leave.
The outgoing general “showed himself the best for two years”, he “tried to do something to maintain the unity of the army and people had a certain confidence in him”, adds the young woman.< /p>
The change of military leader comes at a time when the Ukrainian army is in difficulty at the front, the soldiers are tired after two years of war, and a controversial bill on necessary mobilization is under consideration in Parliament.
While Zaluzhny's popularity has remained at highs since the start of the war, while President Zelensky's is in decline, some suggest the head of state made the decision to eliminate a potential competitor.
“Politics is a game, it’s chess and you understand that Zelensky may have seen a rival,” says Pavlo Kostenko, a 32-year-old financial operator.
Others criticize bad timing, at the start of a third year of war. “As they say, you don’t change horses along the way,” says Valentyna Polichtchouk, a souvenir seller.
“Everyone has come to love and trust Zaluzhny, and now there is a murky situation,” she continues.
Anatoliï, 30 years old, employed in a shoe store, thinks on the contrary that the time had come for a change. “The early period of the war was one thing. Now we are already living in a different period, with a different scale, different projects, different tactics. So maybe this is timely,” he said.
He admits, however, that he does not know the replacement, General Syrsky: “We have a new pilot, but we don’t know how he drives. »
Valentyn Shevchenko, a 23-year-old soldier currently in kyiv, predicts “a negative impact” on the troops.
- Zelensky replaces the popular leader of his army
- Russia launches attack on Avdiïvka “with very large forces”
- In Ukraine, a debate on mobilization rages after two years of war
“No one will stop fighting”
Several front-line soldiers interviewed by AFP do not mince their words regarding the new commander-in-chief.
“I’m on my ass! », says a 46-year-old soldier on condition of anonymity, deployed in the East.
For “Lountik,” as a sergeant calls himself in the eastern region of Donetsk, “it’s honestly not a joy.” “Zaluzhny had something that no one else had, trust and respect. No other military leader has as many,” he says.
“Some people really call him ‘butcher’,” adds the fifty-year-old about General Syrsky, because he “does not consider it necessary to spare people. People are expendable for him. This is the Soviet military training school.”
Another fighter, stationed near Lyman, said he even saw, with his comrades, “a betrayal”.
He also claims that their new leader is known to prioritize military objectives rather than the lives of soldiers.
“It’s an approach that is no different from that of Russia,” he said, fearing that the Ukrainian army would soon carry out “major attacks” hailed as successes by the media, but “no one will say at what cost” human.
But “no one will stop fighting,” he adds, because the fate of the country “depends above all on us and not on the president.”
Rouslan, a tank driver, also near Lyman, finds the shuffle “disturbing.”
“The negative point is that Ukraine may try to attack. But it doesn’t have the means,” he said, while the army was on the defensive and severely lacking in ammunition in the face of Russian assaults.
New boss wants “improvement”
The new commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian forces, Oleksandr Syrsky, for his part, called on Friday, in his first public message, for the “improvement” of the army so that Ukraine can win the war.
“Only change and continuous improvement of the means and methods of warfare will allow us to succeed,” he wrote on Telegram, before proclaiming “together towards victory!” “.
“New tasks are on the agenda. First of all, it is a matter of clearly and detailed planning of the actions of all bodies […] taking into account the needs of the front line in terms of the latest weapons supplied by international partners”, added this general.
Ukraine claims drone attack on two refineries in Russia
Ukraine claimed Friday a nighttime drone attack on two oil refineries in Russia in the Krasnodar region, while the Russian Defense Ministry assured it that it had destroyed 19 of these devices in its sky in the night.
“Drones of the (Ukrainian security) service hit two refineries in the Krasnodar region at the same time: not only Ilsky, but also Afipsky,” congratulated to AFP a source within the Ukrainian special services.
At the Ilsky refinery, according to this source, “a large fire broke out and the primary processing unit, with a capacity of 3.6 million tons per year, was damaged.”
This refinery had already been targeted by a Ukrainian drone attack last year.
The Afipsky refinery was also “affected”, but “the consequences are being assessed”, explained the same source to AFP.
Ukraine has increased drone and missile attacks targeting energy and military facilities on Russian soil in recent months, a means of depriving Moscow of key resources to carry out its assault on its neighbor .
“These refineries are legitimate targets. Not only do they work for defense and provide fuel to Russian troops, but they are also important for the Russian economy,” the Ukrainian source explained.
Local Russian emergency services in the Krasnodar region acknowledged the existence of a fire at the Ilsky oil refinery, but did not link this incident to the drone attacks reported by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Because the Russian army had earlier ensured, as usual, that it had neutralized 19 Ukrainian drones in the night in four different regions – including Krasnodar – and above the Black Sea .
In the Oryol region, about 300 km southwest of Moscow, the attack targeted energy infrastructure sites, without causing any casualties, Telegram said on Telegram. regional governor, Andrei Klychkov.
In this context, the Russian army announced on Friday that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had inspected a command post of Russian forces engaged in Ukraine, without specifying when this visit took place.
As the second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine approaches at the end of February, Russians and Ukrainians attack each other daily using explosive drones, whether on the front or deeper .
Ukraine said Friday that it had shot down 10 of the 16 Iranian-designed Shahed drones launched by Russia overnight, without giving details of those that passed through its anti-aircraft defenses.