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Ukraine's Commander-in-Chief Syrskyi on Kharkiv 'offensive', frontline, mobilization, rotation

Ukraine's Commander-in-Chief Syrskyi on Kharkiv 'offensive', frontline, mobilization, rotation Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrskyi (Getty Images)

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrskyi said in a new interview that the need for mobilizing 500 thousand military personnel has greatly lessened. He also discussed the situation on the front line, stating that if there is an advance, Kharkiv will become a fatal city for the Russians.

Read below the key points from Ukrinform's interview with Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine.

'Number of positions we have returned exceeds the number of lost'

Syrskyi acknowledges that the situation on the front line is indeed difficult but it cannot be any different at the front.

"But we not only are on the defensive but also move forward in different directions every day. Recently, the number of positions we have returned exceeds the number of lost positions. The enemy did not manage to advance significantly in strategic areas, and his territorial gains, if any, are of tactical importance. We are monitoring this situation," Syrskyi stated.

According to him, the current situation remains tense on certain fronts as the occupiers are increasing their efforts, have numerical superiority in personnel, and continue to use the tactic of mass assaults despite significant losses.

Syrskyi also said that the enemy had significantly increased aviation activity, using guided aerial bombs (KABs) and heavily deploying mortars and artillery. Just a few days ago, the enemy's advantage in fired ammunition was about 6:1. However, according to him, the situation with artillery has been equalized on certain front sections, immediately impacting the overall front. Besides, Ukrainian soldiers have an advantage in using drones effectively.

"The enemy continues to carry out offensive operations on a wide front, trying to reach the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions at any cost and pushing us back on the left [east] bank of the Dnipro in the Zaporizhzhia region," said Syrskyi.

The current goal of Ukrainian soldiers, according to the army chief, is to prevent the loss of territory, exhaust the enemy to the maximum extent, inflict the greatest possible losses on them, and form and prepare reserves for offensive actions.

About Zaluzhnyi's resignation

When asked about the reasons for Valerii Zaluzhnyi's resignation from the position of UAF Commander-in-Chief, Syrskyi did not directly answer but noted: "The military has one duty - we do not discuss orders, we carry them out."

"So if the country's president - the Supreme Commander-in-Chief - had reasons for such a replacement, especially during the active phase of the war, it means that the reasons were valid. Valerii Fedorovych [Zaluzhnyi] and I worked side by side during the most difficult times since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, and even before. We worked as one team. I wish him success in his new and very responsible position," added Syrskyi.

About rotations

According to Syrskyi, the process of rotating military units on the front line has already begun. He added that this allows for fully restoring not only the technical readiness but also ensuring rest and recovery for servicemen.

"We need people to ensure this process. That is why I would like all men of military age in Ukraine to realize that Ukraine's survival depends on their will and actions," Syrskyi said.

He also adds that Ukrainians continue to go to defend their country, including by returning from abroad.

"We have many volunteer fighters, and this is not an exaggeration. I do not claim that there are no problems, but I emphasize that we are doing everything to solve them," Syrskyi explained.

About the mobilization of 500 thousand people: 'This figure was significantly reduced'

The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine also commented on the statement made earlier by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about the need to mobilize about 450-500 thousand people for the Defense Forces of Ukraine. According to Syrskyi, after reviewing internal resources and specifying the combat composition of the Armed Forces, this figure was significantly reduced.

"We expect that we will have enough people capable of defending their motherland. I am talking not only about the mobilized but also about volunteer fighters. It is necessary to take into account the fact that people are not robots. They are exhausted, physically and psychologically, especially in combat conditions," says Syrskyi.

Currently, the General Staff is reviewing the strength of certain units that are not involved in combat operations based on an audit of their activities, allowing thousands of servicemen to be freed up and directed to combat units.

About the withdrawal from Avdiivka

The Commander-in-Chief also explained why the Ukrainian Armed Forces had to withdraw their forces from Avdiivka in the Donetsk region.

"We withdrew our forces from Avdiivka because the enemy had a significant advantage in terms of the forces and assets of assault units. Non-stop bombardment by guided aerial bombs broke the integrity of our defense, which allowed the enemy to gradually advance. The insufficient amount of ammunition for our artillery also played a negative role. This prevented us from conducting an effective counter-battery fight in such conditions. To avoid an encirclement and save people's lives, the decision was made to leave Avdiivka," said Syrskyi.

According to him, 25 Ukrainian servicemen fell into Russian captivity during these battles.

"It is also worth remembering that the offensive on Avdiivka resulted in significant losses for the enemy, and they will unlikely talk about this on 'Russian' television. From October 10, 2023 to February 17, 2024, on the Avdiivka axis, the Russian invaders lost 47,186 troops, 364 tanks, 748 armored fighting vehicles, 248 artillery systems, and 5 aircraft. Since the beginning of the Avdiivka defensive operation, the Ukrainian Defense Forces have captured 95 Russian invaders in this sector," adds Syrskyi.

Is there a threat to Kharkiv?

About Russian statements and reports in Western media that Russia might attempt to seize Kharkiv again, Syrskyi comments that the military cannot ignore any information about enemy preparations for offensive actions. However, if Russia dares to take such a step, it will be fatal for them.

"We are carrying out a whole complex of works on the fortification of territories and positions, installing a complex system of fences, and planning the use of our troops in the event of such actions. We already have the experience of combat operations in the Kharkiv region. We managed to liberate most of the Kharkiv region. It was then that the large-scale collapse of the Russian front took place. If the Russians move there again, Kharkiv will become a fatal city for them," he said.

About the shortage of weapons and ammunition

Syrskyi also pointed out that Ukraine could have achieved greater success on the front if allies had provided all the necessary weapons. This especially applies to the Kharkiv offensive, where resources were also lacking.

He also explains that the absence of the required amount of weapons and ammunition allowed Russians to dig deep into the ground in southern Ukraine, in the Zaporizhzhia region, while storming these positions without effective air support resulted in human losses and equipment losses for Ukraine. The recent case was Avdiivka.

"We would definitely keep these positions if there were a sufficient number of, first and foremost, air defense systems and artillery shells," stresses Syrskyi.

He explains that now the Defense Forces are carrying out tasks across the vast front line, practically lacking weapons and ammunition. In his opinion, transitioning to a strategic defense in these conditions is a logical decision. He believes that shell hunger can be resolved if allies help Ukraine with the volumes they promise.

"But the reverse is just as logical - if the West, as it claims, supplies Ukraine with everything its Armed Forces need, it will allow us to push back the enemy, no matter how many people Russia mobilizes, and, finally, to end this war with a military victory over the enemy," adds the Commander-in-Chief.

On February 8, 2024, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy appointed Lieutenant General Oleksandr Syrskyi as the new Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Before that, Valerii Zaluzhny had held this position. Besides, significant personnel changes were made in the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Commenting on these changes, the President explained that a different approach is needed, including rotations, a different approach to front-line management, and a different approach to mobilization and recruiting. He announced that a new management team had taken over the leadership of the Armed Forces.