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Ukraine: Top general Valerii Zaluzhnyi removed from post

Relations between Zaluzhnyi (right) and Zelenskyy (center) have been considered strained since the failure of Ukraine's 2023 counter-offensive

Relations between Zaluzhnyi (right) and Zelenskyy (center) have been considered strained since the failure of Ukraine's 2023 counter-offensive

Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi has been removed from his position, Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said Thursday.

Later, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had appointed Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine's ground forces, to lead the army.

"Starting today, a new management team will take over the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," Zelenskyy said. "I appointed Colonel-General Syrsky as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine."

What did Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi say?

Since late last year, there have been increasing reports of a conflict between Zaluzhnyi and Zelenskyy. According to media reports, the Ukrainian president had planned to replace the general as early as last week, but was initially unable to push through the move.

On Thursday, however, Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi released their statements on the military leadership change within moments of each other on social media, suggesting that Ukraine's two most prominent wartime figures had closely coordinated to put on a show of unity.

Zelenskyy wrote he met with Zaluzhnyi and told him it's time for someone new to lead the army.

"We discussed what renewal the Armed Forces of Ukraine need. We also discussed who could be in the renewed leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The time for this renewal is now," he said.

He had also asked the general to remain "part of the team," Zelenskyy added.

In his own statement, Zaluzhnyi said he had had an "important and serious conversation" with Zelenskyy and that a decision had been made to change battlefield tactics and strategy.

"The tasks of 2022 are different from the tasks of 2024. Therefore, everyone must change and adapt to new realities as well. To win together too," his statement said.

Who is General Valerii Zaluzhnyi?

General Zaluzhnyi, 50, was appointed commander-in-chief just a few months before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Having overseen the successful defense of Kyiv in the opening weeks and the recapture of some occupied territory in northern and southern Ukraine, Zaluzhnyi is a popular figure who has been rumored to have political ambitions — which he denies.

But relations between Zaluzhnyi and Zelenskyy have been considered strained since the failure of Ukraine's 2023 counter-offensive.

rmt,dh/wd (Reuters, AFP)