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Volodymyr Zelensky and Valerii Zaluzhnyi meet on February 8, 2024.

‘New approaches, new strategies are needed’ Here’s what we know so far about Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s dismissal from the post of AFU Commander-in-Chief

Source: Meduza
Volodymyr Zelensky and Valerii Zaluzhnyi meet on February 8, 2024.
Volodymyr Zelensky and Valerii Zaluzhnyi meet on February 8, 2024.
Press service of the President of Ukraine / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

In his daily video address on February 8, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he had replaced the leadership of Ukraine’s Armed Forces (AFU).

“Today, a new management team is taking over the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. I want the vision of the war to be unified among our soldiers in Robotyne or in Avdiivka, as well as in the General Staff and at the Headquarters,” said the Ukrainian President.

Zelensky appointed Oleksandr Syrskyi as the new AFU Commander-in-Chief, replacing Valerii Zaluzhnyi. “I held dozens of conversations with commanders of various ranks. In particular, today I spoke with generals Andrii Hnatov, Mykhailo Drapatyi, and Ihor Skybiuk, and colonels Pavlo Palisa and Vadym Sukharevskyi. They are all being considered for leadership positions in the army and will serve under the guidance of the most experienced Ukrainian commander,” Zelensky added.

Earlier, the Ukrainian president said that he had met with Zaluzhnyi and proposed that he “remain part of the team.”

Zaluzhnyi also posted about the meeting with Zelensky, stating that they had “an important and serious conversation.” “A decision has been made on the need for a change in approaches and strategy,” wrote Zaluzhnyi, though he didn’t comment directly on whether this was referring to his dismissal.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said that Zaluzhnyi “carried out one of the most challenging tasks — leading Ukraine’s Armed Forces during the great war with Russia.” He added that “the war doesn’t stay the same,” and “demands changes.” “2024 brings new changes, for which we need to be prepared. New approaches, new strategies are needed. A sincere thank you to Mr. Zaluzhnyi for all his achievements and victories,” he added.

Ukrainian media and politicians started discussing Zaluzhnyi’s possible dismissal on January 29. According to unofficial reports from various sources, Zelensky held a meeting with Zaluzhnyi on January 29, suggesting that he leave his position as AFU Commander-in-Chief, though Zaluzhnyi reportedly refused to write the resignation statement himself.

During an interview with Italian publication Rai News 24 on February 4, Zelensky confirmed that he was considering the possibility of dismissing Zaluzhnyi. The Ukrainian president clarified that he was speaking not only about Zaluzhnyi or the military leadership, but that he was considering plans to replace a number of government officials. “This is a question of the people who will lead Ukraine. Undoubtedly, there’s a need for a reset, a fresh start,” said Zelensky.

The new AFU Commander-in-Chief, Oleksandr Syrskyi, has “successful defense experience,” said Zelensky. In particular, Syrskyi “led the Kyiv defense operation” and has successful experience in the “Kharkiv liberation operation,” Zelensky said.

Syrskyi was born in Russia’s Vladimir region, which was then part of the Soviet Union. He first studied at the Moscow Higher Combined Arms Command School, and then at the National Defense University of Ukraine. Syrskyi has served as the commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces since August 2019.

According to The Washington Post, 58-year-old Syrskyi is not very popular among Ukrainian troops. Many of them consider him to be a “Soviet-style commander” who kept troops under fire for too long in Bakhmut, refusing to retreat.

Syrskyi has not yet commented on his appointment. It’s also unclear what Zaluzhnyi will do next. “I proposed to General Zaluzhnyi to remain part of the team in the Ukrainian government. I’d be thankful if he agreed,” wrote Zelensky. Zaluzhnyi has not made any public statements following Zelensky’s post.

The Ukrainian President’s official website posted a decree announcing Zaluzhnyi’s dismissal from the position of AFU Commander-in-Chief, along with another decree appointing Syrskyi as his replacement.

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Translation by Sasha Slobodov

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