Feb 8, 2024 - World

Zelensky replaces Ukraine's top general in major shakeup

Zelensky

Volodymyr Zelensky during a news conference in Kyiv in December 2023. Photo: Andrew Kravchenko/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Thursday that he replaced the country's top military general.

Why it matters: The removal of Valery Zaluzhny is the most significant personnel shift Kyiv has made since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly two years ago.

  • Zaluzhny is a celebrated figure in Ukrainian society, who is credited with leading Ukraine through the war's early stages and achieving many of its military successes.

Driving the news: Recent reports have indicated that Zelensky was considering replacing Zaluzhny.

  • The general's public comments on Ukraine's counteroffensive last year contradicted Zelensky's rhetoric and further soured an already fraught relationship between the two, per the New York Times.
  • Zelensky confirmed the leadership shift as apart of a broader shakeup in a Telegram post on Thursday. He also announced the promotion of Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky to lead Ukraine's armed forces.
  • "I am grateful to General Zaluzhny for two years of protection. I am grateful for every victory we achieved together," Zelensky wrote.
  • He added that he had asked Zaluzhny to remain part "of the team of the Ukrainian state of the future." He did not say whether Zaluzhny had accepted that offer.

Between the lines: Syrsky's appointment is likely to be unpopular among Ukraine's troops, the Washington Post reported.

  • Many Ukrainian soldiers see Syrsky as a Soviet-style commander who kept troops in Bakhmut for too long amid sustained Russian shelling.

The big picture: The Biden administration has struggled to secure additional military aid for Ukraine's defense against Russia amid entrenched opposition from some Congressional Republicans.

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