Zelenskyy appointed Сol. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, to lead the army. Syrskyi, 58, has since 2013 been involved in the Ukrainian army’s effort to adopt NATO standards.
Zaluzhnyi, in a Telegram message, did not announce he had stepped down but said he accepted that “everyone must change and adapt to new realities” and agreed that there is a “need to change approaches and strategy” in the war.
The statement followed days of speculation spurred by local media reports that Zelenskyy would sack Zaluzhnyi in the most far-reaching shake-up of the top military brass since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 2022.
Ukraine’s struggles with ammunition and personnel come on the heels of a failed summer counteroffensive last year.
Zaluzhnyi was highly regarded by his troops and by foreign military officials. Some analysts warned that his exit could bring unwelcome disruption, potentially driving a wedge between the Ukrainian army and politicians, and fueling uncertainty among Kyiv’s Western allies.
Rifts within Ukraine’s top leadership burst into the open recently with swirling rumors starting on Jan. 29 that Zaluzhnyi would be dismissed. Zelenskyy’s office and the Defense Ministry denied the rumors, but the reports fueled expectations he was on his way out.
Strains had appeared between Zaluzhnyi and Zelenskyy — arguably the two most prominent figures in Ukraine’s fight — after the much-anticipated counteroffensive failed to meet its goal of penetrating Russia’s deep defenses. Kyiv’s Western allies had poured billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware into Ukraine to help it succeed.
Months later, amid signs of war fatigue in the West, Zaluzhnyi described the conflict as being at a “stalemate,” just when Zelenskyy was arguing in foreign capitals that Ukraine’s new weaponry had been vital.
Zelenskyy said at the end of last year that he had turned down the military’s request to mobilize up to 500,000 people, demanding more details about how it would be paid for.