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30 Jan, 2024 23:05

Zelensky threatens to fire Ukraine’s top general – media

Valery Zaluzhny has reportedly refused to step down voluntarily
Zelensky threatens to fire Ukraine’s top general – media

Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny has rejected President Vladimir Zelensky’s “offer” to resign and become the national security head instead, the Financial Times and The Economist reported on Tuesday, citing sources familiar with discussions between the potential political rivals.

Zelensky allegedly told Zaluzhny that he would be removed from his current position regardless of whether he accepted a new role or not, according to two anonymous sources cited by the FT. The Economist reported it was able to “confirm” that during a meeting on Monday, Zaluzhny was offered the top position in the National Security and Defense Council but turned down the proposal. 

On Monday, numerous Ukrainian media outlets and Telegram channels, citing political and military sources, reported that Zaluzhny was about to lose his job. In response, the Defense Ministry issued a message on Telegram: “Dear journalists, we reply to all of you at once: No, it’s not true.” Zelensky’s spokesman, Sergey Nikiforov, also said that the president “didn’t fire the commander-in-chief.” Ukrainian state-run censorship body CSCIS called the rumors of Zaluzhny’s resignation “destabilizing” and “demoralizing.”

As reports of the top general’s imminent firing spread like wildfire, two other sources told the FT that while his fate has apparently been decided, Zelensky may allow Zaluzhny to keep his job “for some time” to avoid a wider scandal.

The commander-in-chief is seen as a potential political rival of Zelensky, given his popularity among Ukrainian voters. An opinion poll by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) released in December found that while public trust in Zelensky had dropped to 62% from 84% a year ago, Zaluzhny was trusted by 88% of respondents.

Zelensky and Zaluzhny have clashed over the potential overstepping of their roles into each other’s purview. The tensions between the two reportedly deepened in November, when the Ukrainian leader was angered after the general described the situation on the battlefield with Russia as “a stalemate.” 

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that Kiev’s prime backer, the US, was concerned that “differences” between Zelensky and Zaluzhny were “slowing efforts to crystallize a new strategy” after Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year failed to deliver the desired results.