Zelenskyy Replaces Ukraine's Military Chief

  • Ukrainian Pres. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has dismissed General Valerii Zaluzhnyi from his position as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, replacing him with Oleksandr Syrskyi, who had been the commander of Ukrainian Land Forces since 2019. Zaluzhnyi was reportedly offered a different position but turned it down. CNN (LR: 2 CP: 5)
  • Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi have been at odds publicly for some time, beginning with a disagreement over the former commander's essay in the Economist last year claiming the war had reached a stalemate after Ukraine's failed counteroffensive. Zelenskyy also rejected Zaluzhnyi's call for hundreds of thousands of more troops and a return to a more defensive approach. wsj.com (LR: 3 CP: 5)
  • Syrsky was a leader in the initial defense during the first month of the war, after which he was credited with leading a successful counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region later in 2022. However, Syrsky is seen as unpopular among some soldiers, given what has been described as his Soviet-style leadership of leaving forces under fire for too long. Washington Post (LR: 2 CP: 5)
  • Syrsky is taking the helm as Russia has increased its attacks on the frontline, as well as Ukrainian military commanders claiming they're facing troop shortages, particularly among frontline infantry soldiers. Washington Post (LR: 2 CP: 5)
  • The decision also comes as a poll by the Kyiv Institute of Sociology has reported that Zelenskyy's 62% popularity is much lower than that of Zaluzhnyi, whose approval stands at 88%. Zaluzhnyi, who has criticized the Ukrainian government for what he called defense industry issues such as production bottlenecks, has been seen by some as a potential political contender against Zelenskyy. CNN (LR: 2 CP: 5)
  • Since the failed counteroffensive, which was backed by billions of dollars in US aid, Ukraine has recently been on the defensive amid new Russian ground attacks. While the EU recently approved a $54B economic aid package, US lawmakers are still debating over a $60B package of their own. New York Times (LR: 2 CP: 5)

Narrative A:

  • While Zaluzhnyi made a valiant effort and led the country through its first two years of the war, Syrsky is Ukraine's most experienced officer with a successful resume dating back to the war with Russia in 2014. As Ukraine faces new challenges amid shifting battlefield realities, Pres. Zelenskyy has to do what's best for Ukrainians, which right now is implementing the best people and systems to defeat Moscow.
    NEWSWEEK (LR: 1 CP: 5)

Narrative B:

  • Zaluzhnyi was originally picked over more senior officers because his capabilities put him in the perfect position to combat what seemed like an impossible task in early 2022. Not only has Ukraine lost a man who turned his country into a world-class military force overnight, but one who continued to maintain that strength for two years. Replacing him will do nothing but lower morale among Ukraine's people and their soldiers.
    BBC NEWS (LR: 3 CP: 5)

Nerd narrative:

  • There's a 50% chance there will be a bilateral cease-fire or peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine by March 2026, according to the Metaculus prediction community.
    METACULUS (LR: 3 CP: 3)
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