Friday, March 1, 2024

Zelensky appointed the new army chief at a crucial moment in the war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has relieved his top general, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, in a major shake-up in the country’s war strategy as the conflict with Russia enters its third year and Ukraine is faced with a shortage of ammunition.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, ended the speculation on Thursday, February 8, by making official the consolation of the head of the Armed Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, a highly respected general in Ukraine, who accepted his dismissal in a tone of approval and made a call to “adjust to the new realities” of the land after two years of Russian invasion.

In a post on “The time has come for such a change,” Zelensky declared.

The Ukrainian president appointed Colonel General Oleksandr Sirski, until now the head of the Ukrainian Land Forces, as the director of the Army. Sirski, 58, has been involved since 2013 in the Ukrainian Army’s efforts to adopt NATO standards.

Zaluzhnyi, in a message on Telegram, said that he accepted that “everyone must change and adapt to new realities” and that he agreed that there is a “necessity to change the methods and strategies” of the war.

The statement came after several days of speculation, fueled by local media reports, that Zelensky would remove Zaluzhnyi in the most far-reaching reshuffle of the military leadership since the full-scale US invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24, 2022.

Ukraine’s problems with ammunition and personnel They compounded last summer’s counter-offensive failure.

File Image - Commander-In-Chief Of The Armed Forces Of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi Attends A Commemorative Event Marking The First Anniversary Of The War Between Russia And Ukraine, In Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, February 24, 2023.
File image: Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi attends a commemorative event on the occasion of the first anniversary of the war between Russia and Ukraine in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday, February 24, 2023. © AP

The reasons for the change

Zaluzhnyi was a soldier who was highly valued by foreign troops and military personnel. Some analysts warned that his departure could cause unwanted discomfort, which could drive a wedge between the military and Ukrainian politicians and stoke uncertainty among Kyiv’s allies.

Positions along the 1,500-kilometer front line remained largely unchanged during the winter, although Kremlin forces continued their attacks at some points. Faced with an expected shortage of weapons in the West, Ukraine is strengthening its defenses, while Moscow is putting its economy on a war footing to give its Army more strength.

Disagreements within the Ukrainian leadership came to light on January 29, with rumors that Zaluzhnyi would be ousted. Zelensky’s office and the Defense Ministry denied the rumors, but the reports raised expectations that he was about to be dismissed.

Tensions between Zaluzhnyi and Zelensky—arguably the two most prominent figures in the Ukrainian struggle—have been exposed after the long-awaited counter-offensive failed to achieve its aim of penetrating deep into Russian defenses. Kyiv’s Western allies have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of military hardware to help it succeed.

File Image - In This Photo Provided By The Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Left, Shakes Hands With Commander-In-Chief Of The Ukrainian Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi During Their Meeting In Kiev, Ukraine, On Thursday, February 8, 2024.
File image: In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, shakes hands with Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday, February 8, 2024. © AP

Months later, amid signs of Western war weariness, Zaluzhnyi described the conflict as a “stalemate,” as Zelensky argued to foreign capitals that new weapons were essential.

Zelensky stated late last year that he rejected the army’s request to mobilize up to 500,000 people, demanding more details on how it would be paid for.

Born into a Soviet military family, Zaluzhnyi is credited with modernizing the Ukrainian Army along NATO lines. He assumed command seven months before the full invasion of Russia.

World Nation News Desk
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