Earlier in the day the Financial Times’ Ukraine correspondent highlighted the unconfirmed reports widely circulating that Ukraine’s commander-in-chief Gen. Valery Zaluzhny has been fired by President Zelensky. “I’ve also heard from sources it’s ‘true’ he’s fired & ‘not yet.’ Ukrainian media claims a decree dismissing him but not yet published. MoD tells media ‘not true’, wrote FT’s Christopher Miller.
Another Ukraine war watcher noted the significance of the timing of the persistent rumors: “Rumors suggest that Zelensky will now fire General Valery Zaluzhny – Zelensky is in a very difficult position as Ukrainian lines are about to collapse, and he needs more loyal people around him.”
Still others said that despite this still being on the level of rumor and unconfirmed, the scope of the ‘leak’ seems broad, suggesting big news is indeed likely around the corner. If it happens it could mark a huge shift in the nearly 2-year long conflict, as Zelensky would likely transition toward finding a scapegoat on which to blame losing the war, and then perhaps negotiations toward ceasefire could finally begin.
Below is reporting in the Kyiv Independent, as speculation runs rampant:
Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhny 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.
As far as sourcing, the Ukrainian media report explains, “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.”
The Ukrainian government has denied reports of Zaluzhny’s firing…
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s spokesperson Serhii Nikiforov and other Ukrainian sources denied reports that Zelensky was consulting with Western partners about — and maybe already signed — an order dismissing military chief Valery Zaluzhny.
Is it pure rumor and falsehood? Or are we now witnessing Zelensky officials scrambling to get back out in front of the leak?
In December, as a dispute over broader strategy between Zelensky and Zaluzhnyi became more public, Zelensky awkwardly said at a press conference, “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’s spokesman has joined the Ukrainian MOD in denying the rumors about Zaluzhny’s firing. It does, however, seem that there is a shakeup in the works. But I’m doubtful it will happen tonight. And this chaos could impact whether it happens at all. Let’s see how it plays out
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) January 29, 2024
Back in November Gen. Zaluzhny riled the Zelensky administration and external allies by being the first top official to paint a very negative picture of how Ukraine’s military was fairing on the battlefield. He made the remarks to The Economist and the admission quickly caught the eye of other major publications, most notably The New York Times, which underscored “His comments marked the first time a top Ukrainian commander said the fighting had reached an impasse…”.
Additionally, the NYT described that “It is the most candid assessment so far by a leading Ukrainian official of the military’s stalled counteroffensive.”
Monday’s rumor mill started with a message from a foreign correspondent with The Economist…
*Ukr ministry of defence has denied this is happening. That does not mean it won’t. As I say, we await confirmation.
— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) January 29, 2024
Gen. Zaluzhny had bluntly asserted in the initial interview, “Just like in the First World War we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate.” He then emphasized: “There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.” He is said to have been at odds with Zelensky ever since, but firing the head of Ukraine’s armed forces would be seen as a major ‘win’ for Moscow.