The Ukrainian government has reportedly informed the White House that it is planning to fire the country’s top military commander overseeing the war against Russia.
Reuters quoted a source as saying that the White House, upon being informed of the decision to oust General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, did not express a position and was okay with the decision.
“I would emphasize that the White House response was that we did not support or object to their sovereign decision,” said the source.
“The White House expressed that it is up to Ukraine to make its own sovereign decisions about its personnel,” the source claimed. “The US is okay with Ukraine firing him.”
A senior defense official revealed to The Washington Post that it has been five days since Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky told his top general that he would soon be ousted, but a successor still has not been found.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, the administration has maintained silence after initially denying on Monday that Zaluzhny was being dismissed, as he has not been officially fired yet.
Zaluzhny’s relationship with Zelensky had been degrading for months, especially after Zaluzhnyi failed to regain control over significant amounts of Russian-held territory last year.
But tensions boiled over at a meeting on Monday in part because of disagreements over mobilizing new soldiers and about other resources.
Reuters also cited another source close to Zelensky’s office as saying there is an ongoing disagreement between the two regarding a recent military mobilization initiative, with Zelensky opposing Zaluzhnyi’s suggestion to enlist 500,000 new soldiers.
On Thursday, Zaluzhnyi accused the Ukrainian government of not effectively mobilizing enough troops and called for an immediate enhancement of the nation’s advanced warfare capabilities in order to counter Russia’s superior and well-equipped military forces “and ensure the existence of statehood.”
He even published a column for the CNN website on Thursday, saying that the government had failed to mobilize enough troops.
“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,” Zaluzhny wrote.
“Right now, both sides (the president and the general) have taken a pause in determining what the future will look like, and for now the status quo will remain until further notice,” the insider close to Zelensky’s office said.
Throughout the war, Zaluzhnyi, also known as “the Iron General”, has been extremely popular among Ukrainians. His ousting decision signals Kiev’s desire for a fresh approach to the conflict.
His dismissal could also negatively impact the morale of Ukrainian soldiers who are engaged in a fierce battle to maintain their positions along an extensive 1,000 km front against a formidable Russian force equipped with substantial ammunition reserves.
Meanwhile, within the Ukrainian army, there are backlash possibilities expected among commanders on the battlefield, who do not have any indication of whether a new commander-in-chief would be able to deliver any quick improvement given shortages of soldiers and ammunition.
“As for Zaluzhny’s successor, on the one hand, it could be one of the young officers who have proven their effectiveness on the battlefield, of which Ukraine has no shortage,” the senior defense official said.
“But do such people have enough management experience to be in charge of such a large mechanism?” they added.
The top runners are believed to be Ukraine’s head of military intelligence, 38-year-old Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, and Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, the 58-year-old commander of Ukraine’s ground forces.