Zelensky sacks Ukraine’s commander-in-chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi

Ukraine’s president has sacked the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

It follows speculation about a rift between the president and Gen Zaluzhnyi, who has led Ukraine’s war effort since the conflict began.

The dismissal will be made official in a presidential decree.

The move marks the biggest change to Ukraine’s military leadership since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

Mr Zelensky said the high command needed to be “renewed” and that Gen Zaluzhnyi could “remain on the team”.

“Starting today, a new management team will take over the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” he said on Thursday.

President Zelensky said that he and Gen Zaluzhnyi had a “frank conversation” about the changes needed in the army, and that he thanked the general for defending Ukraine from Russia.

Mr Zelensky then announced the appointment of Colonel-General Syrskyi as the new army chief.

He said the new incumbent has “successful defence experience” in Kyiv and “successful experience of the offensive” in Kharkiv.

Gen Syrskyi led the defence of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, at the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

He was the mastermind behind Ukraine’s surprise and successful counter-attack in Kharkiv that summer and has since been serving as the head of military operations in eastern Ukraine – one of the two main axes in Ukraine’s counter-offensive.

“We must make this year a crucial one,” Mr Zelensky said.

“Crucial for achieving Ukraine’s goals in the war. Russia cannot simply accept the existence of an independent Ukraine – the very fact of our country’s independent life.”

He said his “renewal” of the army’s leadership was “not about surnames” or politics, but rather the management of Ukraine’s armed forces and the experience of battlefield commanders.

“The army’s actions must become much more technologically advanced. The generalship must be reset,” he added.

Ukraine’s defence minister Rustem Umerov thanked Gen Zaluzhnyi in a statement, saying:

“General Valerii Zaluzhnyi had one of the most difficult tasks – to lead the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the Great War with Russia.

“But war does not remain the same. War changes and demands change. Battles 2022, 2023 and 2024 are three different realities. 2024 will bring new changes, for which we must be ready. New approaches, new strategies are needed.

“Today, a decision was made on the need to change the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

“I am sincerely grateful to Valerii Fedorovych for all his achievements and victories.”

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