Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Sacked by President in Major Military Leadership Shake-up

KYIV, Ukraine – President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has dismissed Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, amid growing speculation of a rift between the two leaders. Zaluzhnyi, who had been leading Ukraine’s war efforts since the conflict with Russia began, has been replaced by General Oleksandr Syrskyi in a significant shake-up of the military leadership. This marks the largest change in Ukraine’s armed forces since Russia’s invasion in 2022. Zelensky stated that the high command needed to be “renewed” and that Zaluzhnyi could still “remain on the team.”

In an announcement on Thursday, Zelensky emphasized the need for a new management team to take control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He revealed that he had a candid conversation with Zaluzhnyi about the necessary changes in the army and thanked the general for his defense against Russia. Zelensky appointed General Syrskyi as the new army chief, highlighting his experience in both defensive and offensive warfare. Syrskyi led the defense of Kyiv during the initial stage of Russia’s invasion and played a crucial role in Ukraine’s successful counter-attack in Kharkiv.

Zelensky’s decision to replace the military leadership is part of his efforts to modernize Ukraine’s armed forces. He stressed the importance of technological advancements and the need for a reset in generalship. Zelensky expects the armed forces to present a detailed plan this year that addresses the realities of the ongoing war with Russia. This plan will include a different approach to frontline management, mobilization, and recruitment.

While Zelensky’s move is aimed at improving Ukraine’s military strategy and capabilities, it has received mixed reactions. Opposition politicians have criticized the shake-up, warning that it carries risks for the country. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko thanked Zaluzhnyi for his service but expressed hope that the changes would be justified. Opposition MP Oleksii Honcharenko called the decision a “huge mistake,” while Valentyn Nalyvaichenko stressed the importance of supporting the military leadership during the war.

Ukraine’s defense minister, Rustem Umerov, thanked Zaluzhnyi for his accomplishments during the Great War with Russia, acknowledging the changing demands of the conflict. Zaluzhnyi had been the commander-in-chief since July 2021, leading the Ukrainian army’s resistance against Russian troops. Speculation of his dismissal had been growing, with reports of Zelensky offering him a new role in January, which Zaluzhnyi declined.

Zelensky’s decision to overhaul the military leadership signals his commitment to adapt Ukraine’s approach to the ongoing conflict. With the appointment of General Syrskyi, Zelensky hopes to harness the necessary skills and capabilities for Ukraine to achieve its goals in the war with Russia.