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11 Dec, 2023 16:04

West wants to replace Zelensky – Russia’s top spy

The Ukrainian president is seen by Kiev’s backers as a potential barrier to peace negotiations, Moscow’s intelligence chief has claimed
West wants to replace Zelensky – Russia’s top spy

Western officials are discussing the potential removal of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky from power, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergey Naryshkin, claimed on Monday. The spy chief outlined there are numerous reasons why Zelensky is seen as undesirable, the most significant being his lack of flexibility regarding the interests of the West.

According to the SVR chief, the West believes the Ukrainian president has gone too far in fostering his image of an uncompromising hawk in the conflict with Russia. In the event of the need to “freeze” the hostilities, this would mean Zelensky is no longer useful in any potential negotiations, Naryshkin claimed.

“According to the US intelligence services, with the way the situation in the Ukrainian theater of war is developing, the need [to freeze the conflict] may come soon,” the spy chief stated.

Naryshkin further claimed that a replacement for Zelensky was being considered due to his unfulfilled promises to defeat Russia on the battlefield, widespread corruption in Ukraine, and the leader’s disrespect when dealing with foreign sponsors. Zelensky has officially decreed that any negotiations with Moscow are impossible as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin remains in power.

Alternatives to Zelensky were discussed on the sidelines of November’s meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, according to Naryshkin. Potential options purportedly include the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, Valery Zaluzhny, military intelligence chief Kirill Budanov, the head of the president’s office, Andrey Ermak, or even Kiev mayor and ex-boxer Vitaly Klitschko.

Following Kiev’s failed summer counteroffensive, Ukrainian Colonel General Aleksandr Syrsky said on Sunday that the Russian army is constantly “conducting offensive operations along the entire front.”

Zaluzhny last month referred to the situation on the front lines as a “stalemate,” admitting there was no hope for a breakthrough. Those comments reportedly fueled a growing rift between the general and the Ukrainian president.

According to the Ukrainskaya Pravda news outlet, Zelensky has resorted to creating alternative lines of command to give orders directly to officers such as Syrsky, thus bypassing Zaluzhny. “It seems that Zelensky has two kinds of the ZSU (Ukrainian armed forces): the ‘good’ guys commanded by Syrsky and other favorites, and the ‘bad’ guys who answer to Zaluzhny,” the outlet quoted a source close to the presidential administration as saying.

Ukrainians’ trust in Zaluzhny surpassed that of Zelensky even last year, the report claimed, while polls showed that the army general would beat the incumbent leader in a hypothetical presidential election. Earlier this year, Zelensky dismissed the idea of holding elections in 2024 as irresponsible at a time of war.