President Volodymyr Zelensky appears poised to replace the country’s top general, amidst growing whispers of discontent with the current command structure. General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine's Commander-in-Chief, has reportedly been at odds with President Zelensky following the lackluster results of Kyiv’s 2023 summer counteroffensive, as reported by CNN.
General Zaluzhnyi, a figure widely respected for his wartime leadership, found himself in a precarious position when, according to two unnamed officials, he was summoned to the presidential office on January 29th and informed of his impending dismissal.
Despite the absence of an official announcement from Kyiv, sources indicated that Zaluzhnyi's departure was imminent, expected to be formalized through a presidential decree that, curiously, never materialized. Zaluzhnyi has been at the helm of Ukraine's military forces since July 2021, playing a pivotal role in countering Russia’s full-scale invasion from its onset.
His strategic acumen has been instrumental in Ukraine's key military successes. However, a rift between him and President Zelensky became apparent after Zaluzhnyi's November 2023 interview with The Economist, where he likened the war's progression to a "technological stalemate," reminiscent of World War I.
This growing divide is further exacerbated by differing views on military strategy and mobilization. Reports from the Washington Post suggest that Zaluzhnyi’s call for mobilizing 500,000 recruits clashed with Zelensky’s perspective, deeming the number impractical.
Zelensky Signals Leadership Reset
Acknowledging the need for change, Zelensky, in a recent interview with Italian news outlet Rai News 24 TV, hinted at a comprehensive overhaul in Ukraine's leadership. As quoted by the New York Times, Zelensky emphasized the necessity of a "reset, a new beginning," indicating his intent to extend changes beyond the military sphere.
The Kyiv Post further reported Zelensky's plans for a broad-spectrum shakeup, targeting not just military but also senior government officials. "When we talk about this, I mean the replacement of a number of senior officials of the state, not only in a separate sector, such as the military,” Zelensky stated, underlining the holistic nature of the intended restructuring.
Zelensky's vision for victory hinges on unified and positive energy across all state sectors. “If we want to win we must all push in the same direction, convinced of victory, we cannot be discouraged, let ourselves down, we must have the right positive energy...
That’s why I’m talking about restarting, replacement,” he added. Speculation abounds regarding Zaluzhnyi's potential successor. The Washington Post proposes Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's military intelligence chief, known for his expertise in asymmetrical warfare but lacking traditional army command experience.
Alternatively, General Oleksandr Syrsky, credited with key defensive and counteroffensive successes, emerges as a strong candidate.