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Zelensky replaces top commander, Zaluzhny, with military intelligence chief


An earlier version of this article included a photograph and headline visible in web searches stating incorrectly that Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, would become Ukraine’s new commander in chief. The new top general is Oleksandr Syrsky, former commander of Ukraine’s ground forces. The article has been corrected.

KYIV — Oleksandr Syrsky will be Ukraine’s next military chief after President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Thursday night that he had replaced Gen. Valery Zaluzhny — the latest twist in a drawn-out saga between Zaluzhny and Zelensky, who told the military chief 10 days ago that he was being dismissed.

The decision to name Syrsky as Zaluzhny’s replacement is expected to be an unpopular one among Ukraine’s troops. The 58year-old commander of Ukraine’s ground forces was credited with leading the defense of Kyiv in the first month of the war and then orchestrating a successful counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region in fall 2022. But among rank-and-file soldiers, Syrsky is especially disliked, considered by many to be a Soviet-style commander who kept forces under fire too long in the eastern city of Bakhmut when Ukraine should have withdrawn.

Zelensky said other commanders are being considered for promotions, as several generals are expected to ousted along with Zaluzhny. Zelensky said he’s asked Zaluzhny to remain as part “of the team of the Ukrainian state of the future.”

In posts on both Zelensky’s and Zaluzhny’s social media accounts, the two men posed shaking hands and smiling. “A decision was made about the need to change approaches and strategy,” Zaluzhny wrote.

Zelensky’s post said that he “thanked” Zaluzhny, 50, for “two years of protecting Ukraine.” He added that in their meeting Thursday, they discussed “updated leadership” for Ukraine’s military.

“The time for such an update is now,” Zelensky wrote.

It’s unclear how Syrsky’s appointment will change what’s become an increasingly perilous situation for Ukraine on the battlefield. Russia has regained the strategic initiative, increasing its attacks along the front line. Commanders have said they’re badly lacking troops, especially infantry that stand in the forward-most trenches and repel Russian assaults. And Ukraine is also facing ammunition shortages, as a $60 billion security assistance package proposed by President Biden has stalled in Congress.

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