The president of Ukraine fired the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces. Valerii Zaluzhnyi.
This follows speculation about a rift between the president and General Zaluzhnyi, who has led Ukraine’s war effort since the conflict began.
Battle-hardened General Oleksandr Syrskyi was announced as his replacement in a presidential decree.
This is the biggest change in Ukraine’s military leadership since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
President Volodymyr Zelensky He said that the high command needed to be “revamped” and that General Zaluzhnyi could “remain in the team.”
“Starting today, a new management team will take over the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” he said on Thursday.
General Zaluzhnyi is a popular general trusted by Ukrainian soldiers and the public, and has been something of a national hero.
His recent approval ratings have been higher than Zelensky’s.
The president said he and General Zaluzhnyi had a “frank conversation” about necessary changes in the military and that he thanked the general for defending Ukraine from Russia.
The new army chief, General Syrskyi, has experience in both defensive and offensive warfare, Zelensky said.
He led the defense of kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, at the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.
He then planned the surprise and successful Ukrainian counterattack on Kharkiv that summer, and has since been serving as chief of military operations in eastern Ukraine, one of the two main axes of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
“We must make this year a crucial year,” Zelensky said.
“It is crucial to achieving Ukraine’s goals in the war. Russia cannot simply accept the existence of an independent Ukraine, the very fact of our country’s independent life.”
He said his “renewal” of the army’s leadership “is not about surnames” or politics, but rather about the management of Ukraine’s armed forces and the experience of commanders on the battlefield.
“The army’s actions must be much more technologically advanced. General command must be reestablished,” he added.
Zelensky said he expected a detailed plan for the military this year, taking into account the reality of the war with Russia. He said a different approach was needed to frontline management, mobilization and recruitment.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the president’s office, said the move was necessary to review the tactics used in Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year.
He echoed Mr Zelensky’s comments about the need to avoid stagnation on the front line and find high-tech solutions.
But there have been mixed reactions to the announcement so far, with opposition MPs being the first to criticize the restructuring.
kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko thanked General Zaluzhnyi for his services to Ukraine and added that he hoped the authorities would justify the changes.
Oleksii Honcharenko, a lawmaker from the opposition party led by former President Petro Poroshenko, said the move was “a big mistake” on the president’s part. He said this would carry risks for the country, adding: “We will all have to pay for this mistake.”
Another opposition MP, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko of the Batkivschina party, said that military leadership during the war “is something that we must preserve, support, not criticize, but help in every possible way.”
Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov thanked General Zaluzhnyi in a statement and said:
“General Valerii Zaluzhnyi had one of the most difficult tasks: to lead the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the Great War with Russia.
“But the war does not remain the same. The war changes and the demands change. The battles of 2022, 2023 and 2024 are three different realities. 2024 will bring new changes, for which we must be prepared. New approaches, new strategies are needed .
“Today a decision was made on the need to change the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
“I am sincerely grateful to Valerii Fedorovych for all his achievements and victories.”