Contender emerges as Ukraine's Zelensky considers military shake-up, amid declining approval
Zelensky and Zaluzhny met on January 29 in the President's Office. During the discussion, in the presence of Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, the head of state proposed a new position to the general, advising on military modernization. Zaluzhny declined this offer and refused to resign.
As reported by Ukrainska Pravda, the course of the discussion was not surprising. Zelensky has been constantly criticizing the commander in chief, accusing him of having political ambitions. Before the president's meeting with Zaluzhny, a public opinion poll was conducted. This poll showed an increase in the percentage of people supporting the end of the war, even at the cost of some compromises with Russia. The poll results also revealed a decrease in support for the president, while Zaluzhny's ratings increased, as well as those of his yet-to-be-established party.
The General Staff anticipated that the decrees on Zaluzhny's dismissal and General Staff Chief General Serhii Szaptała's appointment would be published on February 2. The Washington Post, citing its sources, reported a day earlier that the Ukrainian authorities had informed the White House about Zelensky's decision to change the position of the Commander of the Armed Forces.
As per the American newspaper, the USA did not endorse the Ukrainian president's plans, but they also did not express opposition, acknowledging that Zelensky has the right to make personal decisions.
Zelensky considers dismissing Zaluzhny
In an interview with Italian television RAI, which was aired on the night of February 4 to 5, Zelensky publicly admitted for the first time that he is contemplating Zaluzhny's dismissal. The President spoke about a "major reset" in the power structures.
Ukrainska Pravda has reported that Zelensky is considering two candidates for the position of commander-in-chief, with the most promising one being 58-year-old General Syrski, who oversees the defense of vast front sectors and began his military career during the Soviet era. The portal adds that he has a reputation as a commander, "for whom mission completion is more important than the number of human lives sacrificed for it".
Zelensky is also considering General Kyrylo Budanov, the chief of military intelligence, as another potential candidate.