If you have to ask Ukrainians to name the biggest hero of the past two years, most would probably say Valery Zaluzhny, who has just been fired as the head of the military. Under his command, Kyiv was defended and Ukraine reclaimed more than half of the territory that Russia occupied since February 2022. It was Zaluzhny, as much as President Zelensky, who inspired Ukrainians. But now he has been fired. One of his former deputies, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrsky has taken his place.
Zelensky broke the news in a video address to the nation. “I am grateful for every victory we achieved together and thanks to all Ukrainian soldiers who are heroically fighting this war,” he said. “We spoke frankly today about what needs to change in the army. Urgent changes.” He says he wants General Zaluzhny to “remain on the team” in the military and that he’d be “grateful if he agrees.”
In his salutary Telegram post, Zaluzhny wrote:
In the first most difficult days of the Great War, we stood against a cunning and powerful enemy. We endured together. Our battle continues and evolves every day. The tasks of 2022 differ from those of 2024. Therefore, everyone must change and adapt to the new realities as well. To win, together once again.
Zelensky said a new management team, including “dozens of commanders of various levels,” will now take over the leadership of the Ukrainian army. He wants a “realistic detailed plan of actions” of the army for this year. Zelensky added that there are a million serving in the military, “most of whom” have not seen action and that a different approach to rotation, frontline management, mobilization and recruitment is needed. He mentioned Avdiivka, a city in Donetsk Oblast, in eastern Ukraine, currently under siege: “Avdiivka should not wait for generals to figure out where drones are stuck in warehouses. Every general should know the front line. Excessive staffing in headquarters must be justified. Rotation is a must.”
So we wait to see what the new leadership will look like. Whoever the new leaders are, Ukrainians will hope they are as effective as Zaluzhny has been.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.