Ukraine: what will the change of military chief achieve?

After much speculation, it is now official: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed General Valery Zaluzny as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The former ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrsky has been appointed as his successor. The European press has very different ideas about what to expect from this change.

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Blick (CH) /

The newcomer needs to deliver

Syrsky is supposed to achieve what his predecessor failed to do, comments Blick:

“The standstill is a reality. ... Ukrainian soldiers made their last major breakthrough in autumn 2022 in the region around the city of Kharkiv in the north-east of Ukraine. The man responsible for this surprising victory back then was army commander Alexander Syrsky, who Zelensky has now made commander-in-chief. The expectations are clear: Syrsky is to deliver the miracle that Zaluzhny could not. There is enormous pressure on the shoulders of this man, who completed his military training at the Soviet Military Command School in Moscow in 1982. He needs to deliver, and he needs to do it soon.”

The Economist (GB) /

No more dreams of reconquest

Now would be a good time to adjust the goals of the war to reality, says The Economist:

“The most important question is whether Mr Zelensky can profit from General Zaluzhny's dismissal to refocus his vision for the war. Today he is still publicly clinging to his promise that Ukraine will take back every inch of soil occupied by Russian forces, even if he privately knows that this will not happen soon, if at all. If Ukrainian forces could expel the Russian invaders it would be a wonderful thing. However, unless something completely unexpected changes, a war defined by territory is a war Ukraine cannot win.”

Sergey Fursa (UA) /

Irrational and illegitimate

Personal and political animosities were probably the decisive factor here, writes blogger Serhij Fursa on Facebook:

“This is an emotional rather than a rational decision. An emotional decision that the country cannot afford. ... In legal terms, Zelensky has the right to dismiss Zaluzhny. ... But in addition to legality, there is also the concept of legitimacy. Is this decision legitimate in the eyes of Ukrainian society? Especially when it is known that this decision is the result of political jealousy and not professional differences.”

Delo (SI) /

That won't go down well

This is a delicate personnel issue, notes Delo:

“Despite a conciliatory farewell, the dismissal of Zaluzhny could prove to be one of Zelensky's most unpopular decisions in the last two years. For many Ukrainians, the 'Iron General' is a national hero; his popularity is evident both from opinion polls and from the testimonies of Ukrainian soldiers, who clearly have great respect for him. His successor is also regarded as an experienced commander, partly due to his role in successfully defending Kyiv at the beginning of the war. However, according to Ukrainian and Western media reports, Lieutenant General Syrsky has been criticised for his lack of sensitivity about military casualties over the past two years.”

Maksym Yali (UA) /

Careful not to rush into politics

Political scientist Maksym Yali examines speculations about the general's political ambitions on Facebook:

“The big question now is whether the rumours about his presidential ambitions will be confirmed. And whether he will launch his own political project. There will be many who would like to exploit him as a 'party leader' to get their people into the Verkhovna Rada. ... Former President Poroshenko will be the first in line. ... If Zaluzhny is a sensible person, he will at least take a break to reflect and rest. Otherwise people will immediately start to discredit him, and by the time the elections are held there will be nothing left of his good reputation.”