Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy replaces top general in major shake-up at pivotal moment in war with Russia


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky replaced his army chief general on Thursday, amounting to a major shake-up of the country’s war strategy as the war with Russia is in its third year and Ukraine is struggling with ammunition and personnel shortages.

In a social media post, Zelenskyy said he thanked General Valerii Zaluzhnyi – a military leader popular with the troops and the general public – for his two years of service as commander-in-chief. “The time for such a revival has come,” Zelensky said.

Zelenskyy named the colonel. General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, will lead the army. Syrskyi, 58, has been participating in the Ukrainian army’s efforts to adopt NATO standards since 2013.

Zaluzhnyi, in a Telegram message, did not announce his resignation, but said he accepted that “everyone must change and adapt to new realities” and recognized that it was “necessary to change approach and strategy” in war.

Zelenskyy said in his social media post on Thursday that he had offered Zaluzhnyi to “remain a member of the team,” without providing any details.

“We will definitely win! Glory to Ukraine!” Zelensky wrote.

The statement followed days of speculation fueled by local media reports that Zelenskyy would fire Zaluzhnyi in the deepest shake-up of the military’s top brass since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 2022.

Ukraine’s ammunition and personnel difficulties follow the failure of a counter-offensive last summer.

Zaluzhnyi was highly regarded by his troops and by foreign military officials. Some analysts have warned that his departure could lead to unwanted disruption, potentially driving a wedge between Ukraine’s military and politicians and fueling uncertainty among kyiv’s Western allies.

There was little change in positions along the 1,500-kilometer (900-mile) front line over the winter, although Kremlin forces continued attacks at some points. Faced with a projected supply shortfall in Western weapons, Ukraine has dug in defenses, while Moscow has put its economy on a war footing to empower its military.

Divisions within Ukraine’s top leadership recently came to light with swirling rumors beginning on January 29 that Zaluzhnyi would be fired. Zelensky’s office and the Defense Ministry denied the rumors, but the reports fueled hopes that he was on his way out.

Tensions had arisen between Zaluzhnyi and Zelenskyy – arguably the two most prominent figures in the Ukrainian struggle – after the long-awaited counter-offensive failed to achieve its goal of penetrating Russia’s deep defenses. kyiv’s Western allies had pumped billions of dollars of military hardware into Ukraine to help it succeed.

A few months later, amid signs of war weariness in the West, Zaluzhnyi described the conflict as being at an “impasse” just as Zelensky was asserting in foreign capitals that Ukraine’s new weapons were vital.

Zelensky said late last year that he had rejected the military’s request to mobilize up to 500,000 people, demanding more details on how that would be paid for.

Born into a Soviet military family, Zaluzhnyi is credited with modernizing the Ukrainian army according to NATO principles. He took office seven months before the full-scale invasion of Russia.

Widely regarded in the West as an ambitious and astute battlefield commander, he has a reputation for modesty in Ukraine.

Zaluzhnyi gained widespread public support after the successful defense of kyiv in the first days of the war, followed by a triumphant counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region and the liberation of Kherson. His courage and defiance of Russian ambitions were renowned and he became a symbol of resilience and national unity.

“We are on our lands and we will not abandon them,” Zaluzhnyi said on the first day of the war.

Despite his popularity, Zaluzhnyi stepped away from the spotlight, giving the role to Zelenskyy. He made limited public appearances and rarely gave interviews.

Retired Australian Major General Mick Ryan, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, described Zaluzhnyi as “a charismatic and popular military leader” who would be difficult to replace.

His replacement will need to build personal relationships with U.S. and NATO military leaders, while the perception of government instability “presents a real danger zone for” Zelensky, Ryan recently wrote in an article posted online .

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces claimed to have shot down a Russian attack helicopter in eastern Ukraine near the town of Avdiivka, where soldiers are fighting street to street as the Russian army intensifies his four-month campaign to encircle Kiev’s defense troops.

Ukrainian soldiers used a man-portable anti-aircraft missile to shoot down the Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter, one of the Russian Air Force’s deadliest weapons, according to Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of Ukrainian units fighting on the southeastern front line.

Avdiivka has become “a primary target” of Moscow’s forces, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an assessment on Thursday.

Street-to-street fighting is taking place in the city as Ukrainian troops seek to keep their main supply route open amid intense shelling, the ministry said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported Thursday that its troops had repelled 40 enemy assaults around Avdiivka over the previous 24 hours. This is about double the number of daily Russian assaults on other points of the front line.

Russian newspaper Pravda reported Thursday that the Russian military was trying to cut a key logistical supply route to Ukraine in the village of Lastochkyne, about 6 kilometers (4 miles) west of Avdiivka.

The Russian military used electronic warfare to neutralize the Starlink communications system that Ukrainian troops use to communicate, Pravda reported.

Ukraine built several defenses at Avdiivka, supplemented by concrete fortifications and a network of tunnels. Despite massive losses in personnel and equipment, Russian troops have been making slow progress since October.

The fight turned into a dreadful effort for both sides. This has been compared to the nine months of fighting for Bakhmut, the longest and bloodiest battle of the Ukrainian war. It ended with Russia capturing the deserted and bombed city last May, which Moscow hailed as a major triumph.

Bakhmut and Avdiivka are located in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Moscow-backed rebels seized part of the region in 2014 and Russia illegally annexed it in full in 2022 along with three other Ukrainian regions.

Russia wants to seize the entire Donetsk region, of which it currently holds a little more than half of the territory.

Last month, Russia and Ukraine exchanged hundreds of prisoners of warexactly one week after Moscow accused Ukraine of shooting down a military transport plane carrying dozens of captured Ukrainian soldiers. Moscow said the plane was shot down by Ukrainian missiles over far western Russia as it headed for a prisoner exchange, killing everyone on board.

Ukraine has not explicitly denied shooting down the Russian plane, but its intelligence directorate has accused Moscow of failing to inform Ukrainian authorities of any flights carrying prisoners of war, suggesting that Russia may have deliberately put the Ukrainian troops in danger in the middle increase in Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory.





Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.cbsnews.com

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