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7 Feb, 2024 18:00

‘Back off’ from top general – ex-Ukrainian president to Zelensky

Any ‘reset’ in Kiev should start from the top, Pyotr Poroshenko has said
‘Back off’ from top general – ex-Ukrainian president to Zelensky

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky should leave General Valery Zaluzhny alone, his predecessor Pyotr Poroshenko said during a fiery speech in parliament on Wednesday.

Zelensky had told Italian media over the weekend that he was considering sacking Zaluzhny, the supreme commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and implementing a “reset” at the highest levels of government in Kiev.

If Zelensky wants a “reset” he should start with himself and “back off” Zaluzhny, Poroshenko said in the Verkhovna Rada. He also demanded a purge of what he claimed were holdovers from the presidency of Viktor Yanukovich, overthrown in the US-backed coup in February 2014.

Poroshenko became president in June that year, in time to escalate the “punishment expedition” against the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – two regions that seceded from Ukraine after the coup and eventually voted to join Russia.

He lost the 2019 election in a landslide to Zelensky, who campaigned on a platform of making peace in Donbass, only to completely reverse course and seek NATO support for a confrontation with Russia.

Tensions between Zelensky and Zaluzhny have been escalating for months, as Ukraine’s top general disagreed with the president about the situation on the front line, which is getting worse by the day. The most recent rumors about Zaluzhny’s impending firing spoke of him being “rewarded” for his service by being sent to the UK as Ukraine’s ambassador, while naming military intelligence chief Kirill Budanov and Ground Forces commander Alexander Syrsky as potential replacements.

While criticizing Zelensky’s personnel choices, Poroshenko also pushed for finalizing the ban on the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church – which he called “Muscovite” – in favor of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, founded during his presidency.

Poroshenko still faces accusations of high treason for allegedly buying coal from Donbass rebels in 2014-15. He has insisted that the case is politically motivated and without merit. The former president is currently the head of European Solidarity, a small opposition party with 27 seats in the 450-member Rada. 

The Ukrainian parliament is technically past its mandate, as a new election was supposed to be held last October – but was postponed under martial law Zelensky had introduced in February 2022, citing the conflict with Russia.