On January 29, Ukrainian mass media sad that President Volodymyr Zelensky prepared a decree to dismiss the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny.
The news first appeared in anonymous Telegram channels. Former Ukrainian MP Borislav Bereza reproduced the information a little later on his Facebook page (owned by the Meta Corporation, recognised as extremist in Russia and banned). Afterwards, another Ukrainian MP, a representative of European Solidarity Party, Alexey Goncharenko, wrote about Zaluzhny's resignation on his Telegram. According to Goncharenko, the commander-in-chief was offered the post of an ambassador to one of the European countries, but "he refused.”
Two Ukrainian journalists — Roman Tsimbalyuk (recognized as a foreign agent in Russia) and chief editor of Censor. NET Yuri Butusov — wrote on their Telegram channels that Zaluzhny would be replaced by the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov. Butusov said that Zelensky signed the decree on Zaluzhny's resignation, but Ukrainian officials were still in talks with their "foreign partners" during the evening.
Late in the evening of January 29, the Ukrainian administration denied reports about Zaluzhny's dismissal.
"Dear journalists, we are answering everyone at a time: No, this is not true,” the Ukrainian Defence Ministry said on its Telegram channel without specifying what exactly it was refuting.
Later, Zelensky's press secretary Sergei Nikiforov released a more specific statement:
"Definitely not. The president has not dismissed the commander-in-chief,” he said, answering a question from Ukrainian journalists.
Roman Tsymbalyuk subsequently deleted his post about Zaluzhny's impending resignation.
"Just because the decree was not made public does not mean there was no such intention,” he wrote. "This political decision is very sensitive and it does affect our destiny. So at the last moment they were convinced not to do it. This is good."
According to Zerkalo Nedeli sources in the Office of the President of Ukraine, Zelensky did have a meeting with Zaluzhny on January 29 and offered him to step down, to which Zaluzhny supposedly replied:
"It is up to the supreme commander-in-chief to decide whom to work with.”
It was also said that Zaluzhny had no intention to write a resignation letter.
"They did not offer anything significant Zaluzhny. They only offered the status of an assistant or adviser,” the publication said. "Zaluzhny's potential resignation, which has not been formalised by presidential decree yet, is only the first link in the chain of personnel changes in the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the political leadership of the country," the publication also said.
Zaluzhny himself did not release any comment regarding the rumours of his resignation. He only published a photo of himself with the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Sergei Shaptala.
According to strana.ua publication, the news about Zaluzhny's resignation originated from Ukrainian MPs close to former President Petro Poroshenko, as well as from journalists and media who were critical of Zelensky and supportive of Zaluzhny.
Sources close to Zaluzhny said that he refused to sign his resignation document. In addition, according to the legislation of the republic, in order to remove the commander-in-chief from office by presidential decree, the presentation of the Minister of Defence Rustem Umerov is also required.
Rumours about Zaluzhny's dismissal have been circulating quite a while. Zaluzhny appears to be a bright political figure that could make serious competition to Zelensky.
Rumours about disagreements between Zelensky and Zaluzhny first surfaced in 2022. Zelensky's biographer, Time journalist Simon Shuster said that Zelensky was concerned about Zaluzhny's high level of popularity. Their relations deteriorated after Zaluzhny said that the counteroffensive did not live up to expectations.
Valery Zaluzhny was born on July 8, 1973 into the family of a military man. He has three higher educations. He graduated from the Novograd-Volyn Mechanical Engineering College in 1993, from the combined arms department of the Odessa Higher United Command School in 1997, from the National Defence Academy in 2007, and from the National Defence University in 2014. In 2020, he received a master's degree in international relations from the Ostroh Academy (a city of in the Rivne region in northwestern Ukraine).
In 2007, he became first deputy commander of the 24th Iron Mechanised Brigade in Yavorov, Lviv region, and in 2009 he headed the 51st separate mechanised brigade in the Volyn region i the northwest. Since July 2014, he participated in the war in Donbass, including in battles for Debaltsevo. In 2017, he received the rank of major general and became the first deputy commander of the troops of operational command the West of the ground forces. In 2018-2019, he headed joint operational headquarters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and since 2019, Zaluzhny has commanded the troops of the North operational command. In July 2021, Valery Zaluzhny was appointed commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and in March 2022, he received the rank of general of the Ukrainian army.
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