Ukraine’s president replaced his top general Thursday in a shake-up aimed at reigniting momentum in the deadlocked war with Russia, which is grinding into its third year as the country grapples with shortages of ammunition and personnel and struggles to maintain support from the West.
After days of speculation that change was coming, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on social media that he was thankful for the service of the outgoing Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi — a military leader popular with troops and the general public. “The time for … a renewal is now,” Zelensky said on X.
Zelensky appointed the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Сol. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, to lead the army, which needs a morale boost at a time when the conflict with Russia has been at a near stalemate for months.
Syrskyi, 58, has been involved since 2013 in the Ukrainian army’s effort to adopt NATO standards.
Ukraine’s struggles with ammunition and personnel come on the heels of a failed counteroffensive last summer and as European allies try to bump up their military production. At the same time, a political standoff in the United States is holding up further aid from Ukraine’s main supplier.
Zelensky’s announcement came as the Kremlin’s forces push harder to take the eastern Ukraine city of Avdiivka, throwing more troops into the four-month battle and bombarding Ukrainian defences, as they stretch Kyiv’s resources.
Before Thursday’s announcement, local media had speculated for days that Zelensky would sack Zaluzhnyi. It is the most significant shake-up of military leadership since Russia‘s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 2022.
Zaluzhnyi was highly regarded by his troops and by foreign military officials. Some analysts warned that his exit could bring unwelcome disruption, potentially driving a wedge between the Ukrainian army and politicians, and fueling uncertainty among Kyiv’s Western allies.