Zelensky replaces controversial Armed Forces commander amid ongoing Russian aggression
The discord between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Valeriy Zaluzhny, has been a subject of public interest for a while. The former general was vocal in criticizing politicians who were meddling and attempting to influence the decisions of seasoned commanders. He faced accusations of harboring political ambitions.
On Thursday, Volodymyr Zelensky met with Valeriy Zaluzhny to inform him officially about the end of his command over the Ukrainian army. However, it is anticipated that he will remain part of the general staff, contributing his valuable experience and expertise. His strategic acumen played a major role in preventing an early defeat to Russia at the outset of the war.
The new commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, appointed by the President, is Oleksandr Syrsky. He will fill the void left by General Valeriy Zaluzhny.
The disputes between General Valeriy Zaluzhny and President Volodymyr Zelensky have been evident since at least spring. The former often found himself in conflict with politicians who insisted that Ukraine must launch a counteroffensive without delay. In contrast, Zaluzhny had a different strategy to overcome the Russian forces but was compelled to acquiesce.
The initial onslaught on Russian positions turned into a disastrous experience for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, with General Zaluzhny witnessing a tragic loss of his soldiers on the infamous Surowikina line. Despite an attack that spanned several months, Ukraine saw minimum progress on the field by autumn. Later, Zaluzhny lashed out at the interference of politicians in an outspoken commentary.
In a conversation with "The Economist", Zaluzhny confessed to underestimating the enemy when orchestrating the initial attack. "I made a mistake. Ukraine may end up being trapped" - he admitted.
President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude to Valeriy Zaluzhny for "two years of service in Ukraine's defense". During their meeting, they discussed potential candidates for the new leader of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. "Now is a time for such a renewal. Valeriy Fedorovych has been offered to remain in the staff of the Armed Forces" – the President posted on his Telegram channel.
As anticipated, General Valeriy Zaluzhny has been relieved of his duties.
New commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces appointed
On Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he had appointed General Oleksandr Syrsky as the new commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Until now, Syrsky worked under Zaluzhny, commanding the ground troops.
Syrsky demonstrated his valor during the battles of 2014 and 2015, leading his troops out of a Russian encirclement in the town of Debalceve. In 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, he led the defense of Kyiv, a city the Russians purportedly planned to capture in three days. He played a significant role in liberating Kharkiv from occupation as well.
Syrsky, regarded as Zelensky's trusted ally in the army, will likely receive more support than the controversially independent and politically ambitious Zaluzhny. The outgoing general's bold criticism of the president and his popularity played decisive roles in this change. Another factor was their differing views on how to win the war and compel the Russians to retreat.
The consequences of the ongoing war could soon reveal the future of General Valeriy Zaluzhny and how he may continue to contribute to Ukraine. His absence would significantly impact the Ukrainian Armed Forces.