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Contradicting reports point at dismissal of Zaluzhnyi as top commander; Zelensky's office denies it

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 29, 2024 8:12 PM 3 min read
Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi during his visit to front-line positions in the south and east in January 2024. (Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces /Telegram)
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Editor's Note: This is a developing story.

Ukraine's Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi may have been dismissed on Jan. 29, according to sources of the Kyiv Independent and several other Ukrainian media.

No official decree has been published on President Volodymyr Zelensky's website yet.

A Kyiv Independent source in the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces confirmed that Zaluzhnyi was fired. The source wasn't authorized to speak to the press.

Neither Zaluzhnyi nor Zelensky have made any public comments yet.

Zelensky's spokesman Sergii Nykyforov told the Kyiv Independent at 7:50 p.m. on Jan. 29 that Zaluzhnyi wasn't dismissed.

Zelensky's evening address published by his press service at 8:18 p.m. doesn't address reports about Zaluzhnyi's dismissal.

The news was first reported in the early evening of Jan. 29 by a group of anonymous Telegram channels, including some that have reported insider information coming from the Presidential Office of Ukraine before. At the same time, Telegram channels have been known to report misleading stories and spread misinformation.

Ukrainian media, including the Kyiv Independent, have been trying to confirm the news about Ukraine's top commander's firing. The sources, all speaking on condition of anonymity, have been providing contradicting responses.

Are Zelensky and his top general really in discord?
Editor’s Note: This story initially mistakenly said that President Volodymyr Zelensky and Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi haven’t been seen together in public in two months. It was corrected since the two were seen together in public more recently. After successfully taking Ukraine through the…

Zaluzhnyi served as Commander-in-Chief since July 2021. Reports first surfaced in November 2023 about disagreements between Zelensky and Zaluzhnyi.

The alleged disagreement between the two received increased attention following Zaluzhnyi's interview on the state of the war for The Economist on Nov. 1, in which he said there was a danger that Ukraine was walking into the trap of a prolonged war.

Zelensky said he disagreed with this sentiment during a briefing on Nov. 4.  

Ukrainian media outlet Ukrainska Pravda then reported on Dec. 4 that Zelensky was allegedly "bypassing" Zaluzhnyi in communication with some military commanders, citing anonymous sources.

President Zelensky said during a press conference on Dec. 19 that he has a "working relationship" with Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, responding to a question about their alleged dispute.

"He and the General Staff (of Ukraine's Armed Forces) are responsible for the situation on the battlefield. There are many issues to address there," Zelensky said during a press conference.

A December 2023 poll found that 43% of Ukrainians believe that there may be some disagreements between Zelensky and Zaluzhnyi, but only 8% believed the situation was very serious.

The poll also showed that Zaluzhnyi has a 92% trust rating, making him the country's most trusted military leader, and that an overwhelming majority (72%) of Ukrainians would disapprove of him being replaced.

Media: Zelensky ‘bypassing’ Zaluzhnyi in communication with some commanders
President Volodymyr Zelensky is allegedly “bypassing” Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi in communication with some military commanders, complicating the latter’s ability to fully command Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Ukrainska Pravda reported on Dec. 4, citing anonymous sources.
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