Ukrainian social media is full of tributes to Zalujny, who won popular support for his leadership in the nearly two-year struggle against Russia. At a ceremony on Friday, Zelensky presented her with the Hero of Ukraine award and gave her a hearty hug, brushing aside widespread disagreement over her dismissal.
The change on the streets of Kyiv raised some concerns.
Alisa Riazantseva, 35, told The Associated Press that she was “overall satisfied” with Zalujni and hoped “the government didn’t make a big mistake by replacing him.”
Some Western military analysts question whether he is the right man to lead an army suffering from low internal morale and foreign aid.
The 58-year-old general commanded Ukraine’s ground forces and was a natural choice for promotion.
He is not very outspoken and is known for regularly visiting his troops on the front lines. Syrsky was born in Russia and studied at the Moscow Military Command School during the Soviet era. But he spent most of his life in Ukraine and held positions in the Ukrainian army since the early 90s.
Zelensky called him Ukraine’s “most experienced” commander and praised his role in some of its biggest victories, including the defense of the capital Kiev in the first weeks of the war and the offensive that later liberated much of eastern Kharkiv Oblast. .
However, the Ukrainian president did not mention Syrsky’s leadership in Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, unlike Moscow. was captured in May after a month-long battle of attrition. Many military observers have questioned the human cost of Ukraine defending a city of little strategic importance in an apparent attempt to wear down Russian forces.
Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, said of Syrskyi and his tactics: “He’s seen as more of an old Soviet-style officer.” “He is a tough fighter, but he takes high casualties. He is largely not perceived as a new, modern Ukrainian officer,” he told NBC News.
Michael Clarke, visiting professor of war studies at King’s College London, said Zelensky clearly wanted someone who was more optimistic and less defensive about Ukraine’s prospects than Zalujny was.
Last year, Zalujny caught Zelensky off guard when he called the situation on the battlefield a “stalemate” – something that did not sit well with the Ukrainian president at the time.
“We don’t know if he was militarily justified, but he has the right to make that call,” Clark said. “And Zalujni’s popularity among the forces is not really relevant,” he said. “Many generals who fail to achieve their broad goals are popular with their troops if they look at them. “Sometimes the winning commanders are not so popular.”