It has been more than a year that rumors tell of constant tensions between Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and his Commander-in-Chief, Valery Zaluzhny.
The general even vanished for a spell, but resurfaced to continue to lead the army and command the failed counteroffensive.
While the disagreement are reportedly constant, they had not yet spilled into public view in such dramatic fashion.
Zelensky’s office came out to chastise Ukraine’s top military commander for publicly declaring that the war is at a stalemate.
It was suggested that suggesting the General’s comments would help the Russian invasion, in a stunning public rebuke, signaling an emerging rift between the military and civilian leadership.
Speaking on national television, a deputy head of the office of the president, Ihor Zhovkva, said Gen. Valery Zaluzhny’s assertion stirred ‘panic’ among Ukraine’s Western allies.
The New York Times reported:
“At the same time, Mr. Zelensky disputed the general’s characterization of the fighting. ‘Time has passed, people are tired, regardless of their status, and this is understandable’, he said at a news conference on Saturday, adding: ‘But this is not a stalemate, I emphasize this once again’.”
The public censure of Zaluzhny was not the only reaction to his words. A day before, the president’s office replaced one of the commander’s top deputies – the head of special operations forces, General Khorenko.
“The emerging fissure between the general and the president comes as Ukraine is struggling in its war effort, militarily and diplomatically. Its operations along the roughly 600-mile-long trench line have failed to produce any advances, while resulting in high casualties on both sides, and Ukraine is facing intensified Russian attacks in the East. At the same time, skepticism about Ukraine aid has increased in some European capitals and among members of the Republican Party in the United States.”
General Zaluzhny has, so far, not reacted to his public rebuke or to the dismissal of his deputy.
The renewed tensions between the president and the commander was caused by an essay General Zaluzhny published in The Economist magazine.
“’There are difficulties, there are different opinions’, Mr. Zelensky said in his appearance Saturday with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, who paid a surprise visit to Kyiv on Saturday to discuss Ukraine’s E.U. accession process. ‘I believe that we have no right to even think about giving up, because what’s the alternative?’ he added.”
Zelensky worries that Zaluzhny’s ‘sobering conclusions’ could discourage allies.
The dismissal of Zaluzhny top aide generated criticism, including from an opposition member of Ukraine’s Parliament. The firing of General Khorenko appeared to be the most significant and potentially disruptive political meddling in the military’s prosecution of the war so far.
“’The firing looks like political interference into the armed forces and into its combat actions’, the member, Solomiya Bobrovska, who serves on the Parliament’s defense and intelligence committee, said in an interview.”