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Ukraine war: Zelensky confirms possible ‘reset’ of military chief, in boost to Russia as invasion nears 2-year anniversary

In World
February 05, 2024

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was weighing a possible dismissal of the country’s top military officer, a prospect that has shocked the nation fighting Russia’s invasion and worried Kyiv’s Western allies.

Asked whether he was considering the ouster of General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Zelensky told Italian RAI TV in an interview released late Sunday that he was thinking about it as part of a broader issue of setting the country’s path.

He said that “a reset, a new beginning is necessary,” and it’s “not about a single person but about the direction of the country’s leadership.”

When we talk about this, I mean a replacement of a series of state leaders, not just in a single sector like the military.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine President

“I’m thinking about this replacement, but you can’t say here we replaced a single person,” Zelensky said.

“When we talk about this, I mean a replacement of a series of state leaders, not just in a single sector like the military. If we want to win we must all push in the same direction, convinced of victory, we cannot be discouraged, let our arms fall, we must have the right positive energy.”

Zelensky’s comments marked his first confirmation that he was mulling to fire the widely popular general, a possibility that caused an uproar in Ukraine and delighted the Kremlin as the war approaches its second anniversary.

Seeking Western support, Zelensky warns of World War 3 risk

According to Ukrainian and Western media reports, Zelensky last week offered Zaluzhnyi to resign, but the general refused. Zaluzhnyi hasn’t commented on the issue.

The tensions between the president and Zaluznyi have been rising as the country grapples with dire ammunition and personnel shortages following a failed summer counteroffensive. The need for a broad mobilisation to fill the ranks has reportedly been one of the areas of disagreement.

Zelensky said at the end of last year that he had turned down the military’s request to mobilise up to 500,000 people, demanding more details about how it would be organised and paid for.

The rift originated last fall when the general acknowledged in an interview, fighting with Russia had stalemated. The president denied the claim. Photo: Ukrinform/dpa

Ukrainska Pravda reported Monday that Zelensky was allegedly considering the removal of General Staff Chief Serhii Shaptala along with Zaluzhnyi.

Zaluzhnyi on Monday congratulated Shaptala on his birthday and posted a picture of them together on Facebook.

“It will still be very difficult for us, but we will definitely never be ashamed,” Zaluzhnyi wrote.

A rift between Zaluzhnyi and Zelensky first broke into the open last fall when the general acknowledged in an interview with The Economist that the fighting with Russia had stalemated. The president strongly denied that was the case.

EU reaches US$54 billion deal for Ukraine’s fight against Russia

Ukraine desperately needs more Western military help as the Russian forces are pressing in many directions of the 1,500-kilometre (900-mile) frontline, but an aid package has been blocked in the US Congress. Zaluzhnyi’s dismissal could fuel uncertainty among Western allies.

Russia has rejoiced at the prospect, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that the talk about Zaluzhnyi’s dismissal exposed rifts in the Ukrainian leadership.

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