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1 Feb, 2024 19:10

Zelensky’s generals refuse to accept firing top commander – Bild

Both potential replacements for Valery Zaluzhny have declined to take his place, the German paper has claimed
Zelensky’s generals refuse to accept firing top commander – Bild

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has been unable to fire the nation’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, because both replacements under consideration refused the job, the tabloid Bild reported on Thursday.

A host of Western and Ukrainian media previously claimed, citing anonymous sources in Kiev, that Zelensky had sacked Zaluzhny, prompting the Ukrainian government to refute those rumors.

According to Bild, the president did attempt to fire the general on Monday and had to reverse his decision “within an hour” because he could not find a replacement for the nation’s top commander. The move drew strong opposition from the Ukrainian generals, the tabloid claimed.

Zelensky allegedly wanted to see Ground Forces Commander Aleksandr Syrsky in Zaluzhny’s place because “he is more loyal to the president,” Bild said, citing Gustav Gressel, a Ukraine expert with the Berlin-based European Council on Foreign Relations think tank. The generals disapproved of the choice because they see Zaluzhny as a “more humane” leader who is “closer to the troops,” the analyst explained.

Syrsky himself – alongside the Ukrainian military intelligence chief, Kirill Budanov – reportedly “politely declined” an offer to take up Zaluzhny’s position, the paper claimed. Yesterday, Britain’s The Times named Syrsky and Budanov as possible candidates to be Ukraine’s top general, also reporting that they had refused.

Despite Zaluzhny retaining his post, the conflict between him and Zelensky continues to “smolder,” Bild alleged. The relationship between the two men reportedly began to deteriorate when the general wrote an article for The Economist in November, describing the battlefield situation as a “stalemate” following Kiev’s failed counteroffensive. The president has vehemently rejected that assessment.

According to the German outlet, the president and his commander also clashed over strategy in the cities of Bakhmut and Avdeevka. In late spring 2023, when the Russian forces were pressing their advantage against the Ukrainians in Bakhmut, Zelensky insisted the city should be held to the last man, while Zaluzhny wanted to withdraw to preserve his forces, the paper said, adding that the situation was being repeated in Avdeevka.

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Zelensky had abandoned his plans to fire the top general after his plan was leaked to the media. CNN reported on Thursday, however, that the Ukrainian leader still wanted to go ahead with the decision and would fire Zaluzhny by the end of the week.

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