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31 Jan, 2024 14:00

Zelensky abandoned plan to fire his top general – NYT

The Ukrainian leader was spooked after a number of Western journalists telegraphed his move in advance
Zelensky abandoned plan to fire his top general – NYT

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky was poised to fire the country’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, amid a stand-off between the two, but had to ditch the plans earlier this week after they were leaked, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing sources.

According to an unnamed senior Ukrainian official interviewed by the outlet, Kiev backed off from firing Zaluzhny on Monday evening when several news outlets reported the move was imminent. The general was also said to have been offered the position of head of the National Security and Defense Council – which he reportedly declined. An NYT source, however, has since said that the process of firing has only been delayed.

An unnamed former Ukrainian MP confirmed this information to the newspaper, adding that Zaluzhny met with Zelensky on Monday, but no decision was made, with one of the major stumbling blocks being that Kiev has no replacement for the general, who has been in charge of the country’s military since 2021.

According to British newspaper The Times, Zaluzhny’s position was offered to Kirill Budanov, the chief of Ukrainian military intelligence, and to Aleksandr Syrsky, the commander of Ukraine’s land forces, but both declined.

Tensions between Zaluzhny and Zelensky have been brewing since at least November, when the general characterized the battlefield situation in the conflict with Russia as a “stalemate,” an assessment publicly rejected by Zelensky. The general’s comments came amid Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive, which failed to break through Russian defenses; Kiev suffered catastrophic losses, according to Moscow.

According to Bloomberg, Zelensky and Zaluzhny are also at odds over a mobilization bill. The Ukrainian leader is said to have been delaying the initiative while Zaluzhny reportedly insisted on lowering the conscription age as soon as possible.

Commenting on the rumors of Zaluzhny’s dismissal, Ukraine’s censorship body, the Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security, claimed that this information “turned out to be untrue.” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry also stated: “Dear journalists, we reply to all of you at once: No, it’s not true,” in an apparent response to the flurry of reports about Zaluzhny’s fate.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also weighed in on the issue on Wednesday, saying Moscow is closely following the developments. “There are still a lot of questions. But one thing is clear: the Kiev regime has a lot of problems, everything is going wrong out there.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said last month that Ukraine had lost more than 380,000 troops since the start of the conflict in February 2022. He added at the time that Kiev’s counteroffensive had cost it nearly 160,000 casualties.