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Zelensky confirms he’s considering dismissing Ukraine’s military chief

In Europe
February 05, 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly confirmed Sunday he is considering dismissing Ukraine’s top military official after more than a week of speculation, saying Kyiv needs a change of leadership.

When asked by an Italian news outlet RAI TV to confirm reports he might fire Ukrainian commander in chief Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Zelensky said the Ukrainian people want “a reset” and “a new beginning is necessary” after more than a year of a brutal stalemate with Russian forces in the eastern region of Ukraine.

“I have something serious in mind, which does not concern a single person but the direction of the country’s leadership,” Zelensky said, clarifying it was a “replacement of a series of state leaders, not just in a single sector like the military.”

For more than a week, Ukrainian and American media reports have detailed the rift between Zelensky and Zaluzhny, suggesting the president would dismiss the popular general and military leader of the armed forces and had already informed the general in a recent meeting of his imminent firing.

Some reports suggested the Ukrainian president asked Zaluzhny to resign, but the general refused.

The reports reflected tensions over the handling of the war after Ukraine failed in its counteroffensive launched last summer, with forces unable to overcome entrenched Russian positions in the southeast and eastern regions of Ukraine.

The dispute first started when Zaluzhnyi, who has led Ukraine’s military since 2021, told The Economist in November the war had reached a stalemate and there would be no “beautiful breakthrough.”

After the interview, Zelensky disagreed that was the case.

Zelensky is also asking for more details regarding a request from the Ukrainian military to mobilize some 500,000 people in the war, which would be a major recruitment drive and likely a contentious political move. It’s not clear how much that has been a point of tension between the military and Zelensky.

Zaluzhnyi is a popular figure in Ukraine, having grown to prominence during his time in the post and overseeing the entire war against Russia up to this point.

Ukrainian news outlet Ukrainian Pravda also reported Monday that Zelensky was considering the removal of Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Serhiy Shaptala in addition to the possible firing of Zaluzhny.

Zelensky on Sunday told RAI TV that if Ukraine wants “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,” he said. “That’s why I’m talking about restarting, replacement. I have something serious in mind, which is not about a single person but about the direction of the country’s leadership.”

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