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War in Ukraine: rumors of dismissal of Valeri Zaluzhni, the army chief of staff

Latent since the launch of Vladimir Putin's generalized offensive in Ukraine, tensions between Volodymyr Zelensky and the chief of staff of the Ukrainian army, Valeri Zaluzhni, had come to light in Kiev for weeks.

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War in Ukraine: rumors of dismissal of Valeri Zaluzhni, the army chief of staff

Latent since the launch of Vladimir Putin's generalized offensive in Ukraine, tensions between Volodymyr Zelensky and the chief of staff of the Ukrainian army, Valeri Zaluzhni, had come to light in Kiev for weeks. According to sources cited by the Washington Post, the Ukrainian president finally notified, on Monday, his dismissal to the very popular general, who has led operations on the battlefield since February 24, 2022: a disruptive military reshuffle in the context of the difficulties encountered by Ukraine on the battlefield.

On Monday, Zelensky's spokesman Serhiy Nykyforov denied Zaluzhni's dismissal. “There is no order,” Nykyforov said. The president did not fire the commander in chief.” However, according to sources cited by the Washington Post and The Economist, Zelensky informed him of his departure that same Monday during a meeting. The general would remain in place while waiting for a successor to be found and the publication of the official decree. Last year, the effective departure of Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov came several months after a first announcement.

The much-anticipated counter-offensive, carried out by Kiev forces with weapons delivered by their Western allies, did not result in the hoped-for breakthrough through Russian lines and only allowed little territory to be recovered. Zaluzhni and his American counterparts sharply disagreed on tactics. The Ukrainian commander ultimately ignored US directives to concentrate his forces in the South, which he believed would have resulted in much greater losses without air support.

At Monday's meeting, differences between the two men reportedly came to a head over a disagreement over the number of troops Ukraine should mobilize this year. Zaluzhni calls for the mobilization of nearly 500,000 soldiers, a figure considered unrealistic by the Ukrainian president, given the shortage of uniforms, weapons and ammunition, as well as the potential difficulties linked to recruitment. For the chief of staff, it is a question of countering the ongoing Russian mobilization of 400,000 men and of expanding the ranks of the Ukrainian army, thinned by two years of tough fighting. In addition, Volodymyr Zelensky considers the general, a true national hero whose portrait adorns all schools in the country, as a rival, while his popularity exceeds his since his team commissioned polls, to prepare the ground for a possible entry in politics.

The identity of Zaluzhni's successor is not yet known. Two names are circulating insistently. That of the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, General Kyrylo Boudanov, aged 38. His appointment would signal a shift toward asymmetric tactics in a war where the front lines have barely changed in more than a year. However, he never assumed effective command within the army. Another strong candidate is General Oleksandr Syrsky, commander of ground forces, hailed for leading the defense of Kiev in the first month of war before orchestrating a successful counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region in the fall of 2022. .

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