It's official: as we predicted even starting last month Ukraine's top general and commander of the armed forces is now out.
President Zelensky has confirmed that Gen. Valery Zaluzhny has been dismissed, in what appears part of a broader shake-up of top military and government leadership. Zelensky said it is "time for renewal".
Zelensky said Thursday he met with his army chief and that while it's time for significant "changes" - Zaluzhny should remain "on his team". Though the decision had been rumored and reported for over a week, presumably the stall was to negotiate and ensure peaceful transition of the top defense post. There were also widespread reports that Zaluzhny had refused to step down.
"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," Zelensky announced in an English statement on X and Telegram.
Zaluzhny had just before the announcement confirmed he had an "important and serious conversation" with Zelensky which focused on changing battlefield tactics and strategy.
The now former top commander has huge popularity among military ranks and especially far-right, ultranationalist and neo-Nazi elements. Will his firing result in mutiny or rebellion among some units?
Very quickly on the heels of news of Zaluzhny's dismissal, Ukraine announced the appointment of Oleksandr Syrskyi as the new commander-in-chief the armed forces. Until now, Gen. Syrskyi was Ukraine's ground forces commander.
‼️ Volodymyr Zelenskyy officially announced that he appointed Oleksandr Syrskyi as the new commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. pic.twitter.com/zNidGclLiD— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) February 8, 2024
According to Ukraine's FT correspondent:
Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov thanked Zaluzhny for his “achievements and victories,” saying that the general “had one of the most difficult tasks - to lead the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the Great War with Russia.”
A new military leadership team is expected to take over as of today. President Biden just yesterday acknowledged Ukraine is in "dire straights" right now, after Zelensky has struggled to attract more weaponry, and amid war weary Western publics, and European nations which have seen their own stockpiles drained.
Zelensky is likely hoping this major change and shake-up could once again attract and renew Western defense support and aid. To illustrate just how dire the situation is, most might have missed this subtle detail in The New York Times days ago...
‘They Come in Waves’: Ukraine Goes on Defense Against a Relentless Foe (archived) - New York Times, Feb 4 2024“They come in waves,” said Lt. Oleksandr Shyrshyn, 29, the deputy battalion commander in the 47th Mechanized Brigade. “And they do not stop.”
...At the hot spots of the eastern front line, Ukrainian troops are outmanned, outgunned and digging in.
A Lieutenant at age 28 is likely a seasoned one. But in the role of a 'deputy battalion commander'?
What happened to the S3, the Major and nominal deputy battalion commander? What happened to the six Captains the battalion is supposed to have? All of them should be better trained and qualified to take on the role of a deputy battalion commander than a mere Lieutenant.
This small detail, a Lieutenant as deputy battalion commander, tells me more about the battalion's state that any flowery description of casualties.
Likely it is too late for any major turn-around for Kiev forces, though the Zelensky administration has lately been teasing the potential for a large new military mobilization of hundreds of thousands, which is sure to be hugely unpopular and controversial among the Ukrainian population.