Ukraine sacks top general

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The firing of Gen. Valery Zaluzhny is the biggest shakeup in Ukraine’s military cabinet since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.


Zaluzhny will be replaced as Ukraine’s commander-in-chief by Oleksandr Syrsky, formerly the head of the Ukrainian ground forces.


Zelensky said it was time for new leadership, expressing concern with Russian advances and Ukraine’s setbacks, which he said has affected the public mood.


“We must make this year a crucial one,” he said in a video address.


David Silbey, a professor at Cornell University who studies defense policy, said Zaluzhny “seems to be taking the fall for the failure of Ukraine’s fall offensive.”


“The heavy casualties that went along with the trench war has sapped Ukraine of troops and the political infighting in the United States is threatening material support for the Ukrainian war effort,” Silbey said in an email.


“Zelensky can’t control any of that, but he can control who commands Ukraine forces, and so he fired Zaluzhny. It’s a sign of desperation more than calculation.”


Zaluzhny was popular and had overseen the armed forces since 2021, but tensions with Zelensky spilled over in recent weeks, hinting that his termination atop Ukraine’s military was imminent.


The president and Zaluzhny collided on several issues, including on the military’s suggestion to mobilize 500,000 Ukrainians for the war. 


Zaluzhny also said in November that the war with Russia had reached a stalemate, a highly public claim that was picked up by global media outlets and later disputed by Zelensky.


But the Ukrainian president has since admitted the military is struggling to achieve its war aims against a larger Russian force across the 600-mile front line.


On Thursday, Zelensky said the military shakeup was “not about politics.”


“This is about our army system, about the management of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and about attracting the experience of this war’s combat-hardened commanders,” he said.


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