Amid persistent more-than-rumors that Ukraine’s President Zelensky is trying to fire his defense chief, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhny, CNN has given the embattled general op-ed space to speak some things that are certain to pour fuel to the fire.
Prior international reports, including in CNN, said that on Monday Zelensky asked his top general to step down. Zaluzhny reportedly refused. We earlier asked the question, is there a brewing mutiny as the split between the military leadership and Zelensky administration grows wider?
In Zaluzhny’s CNN op-ed, published late in the day Thursday, the top general has continued saying things which run afoul of Zelensky’s more positive, rosy narrative as the latter desperately tries to attract more Western weaponry and funding, at a moment many European nations are struggling with depleted domestic stockpiles.
“We must contend with a reduction in military support from key allies, grappling with their own political tensions,” Zaluzhny writes. “Our partners’ stocks of missiles, air defense interceptors and ammunition for artillery is becoming exhausted, due to the intensity of hostilities in Ukraine, but also from a global shortage of propellant charges.”
“Russia, taking note of how developments in the Middle East have distracted international attention, might seek to provoke further conflicts elsewhere,” he concludes further, echoing things Zelensky has also acknowledged.
Perhaps Ukraine is preparing for the deeply unpopular (unpopular especially among Ukrainians) move for a new mass mobilization? The general’s words hint at this…
We must acknowledge the significant advantage enjoyed by the enemy in mobilizing human resources and how that compares with the inability of state institutions in Ukraine to improve the manpower levels of our armed forces without the use of unpopular measures.
But again, this is sure to rile his boss Zelensky, given it comes off as a deep criticism of the Ukrainian government’s leadership and capabilities (“inability of state institutions… to improve the manpower levels…”).
And here is more from Zaluzhny’s op-ed, where he offers further self-critique of the state of readiness of the nation:
Finally, we remain hamstrung by the imperfections of the regulatory framework in our country, as well as the partial monopolization of the defense industry. These lead to production bottlenecks – in ammunition, for instance – which further deepen Ukraine’s dependence on its allies for supplies.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg too is acknowledging the open divisions in a Friday report:
General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi is a national hero for Ukrainians after repelling the first wave of Vladimir Putin’s invasion on the outskirts of Kyiv.
But two years into the war, setbacks on the battlefield and political jealousies in the capital have soured his relationship with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. This week, the president tried — and failed — to force out his commander-in-chief, pulling back the curtain on a damaging rift at the heart of the Ukraine war effort.
Zaluzhny on eve of his expected firing by Zelensky shows his backing from far-right, which has power to overthrow Zelensky. Zaluzhny takes selfie with leader of far-right Right Sector & commander of Right Sector brigade of Ukrainian military in front of portrait of Nazi… https://t.co/LUhvSw4zYB pic.twitter.com/EX8kAnBKI8
— Ivan Katchanovski (@I_Katchanovski) February 2, 2024
The dispute hearkens especially back to a November interview Gen. Zaluzhny gave to The Economist. He had angered 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. What’s more is 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…”.
The NYT described that “It is the most candid assessment so far by a leading Ukrainian official of the military’s stalled counteroffensive.” But having taken on massive and still mounting casualties, it’s likely that rank and file conscripts would welcome the defense chief’s realism.