Rivalry grows between Zelensky and Ukraine’s top general

Rivalry grows between Zelensky and Ukraine’s top general

The intrigue surrounding the tensions between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhny, has reached its highest intensity since the start of Russia’s invasion. The presidential administration denies any form of conflict between the two most popular figures in war-torn Ukraine but no public statement has yet calmed a debate that is increasingly worrying the population.

Disagreements between the two officials have been frequently reported in Ukrainian media. In a column published on November 30 on Ukrainska Pravda‘s website, Alina Mykhailova, the young widow of legendary second lieutenant Dmytro Kotsiubailo, aka “Da Vinci,” killed in Bakhmut in March, wrote that victory does not rest on the Ukrainian military arsenal but on “the unity of the government, the people and the army.” Mykhailova, who is also a political scientist and a member of the Kyiv city council, added, “If just one piece of this puzzle disappears, nobody will have power, the people may not exist, and the Russian army will be positioned over our entire territory.”

Preserving unity

Petro Burkovskiy, director of the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation think-tank, has also made no secret of his concern, citing the country’s major difficulties in mobilizing new soldiers. “For this to happen, the government must preserve unity and cohesion between the military and civilian leaders,” said the political analyst, who also warned of the potential consequences on Ukraine’s international image: “No one will support a country whose military and political leaders are not in tune.”

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This is not the first time that tensions between the president and his chief of staff have been raised in the Ukrainian public arena. According to Volodymyr Fesenko, political analyst and director of the Penta Center for Political Studies, the presidential office has been harboring a “political jealousy” of Zaluzhny for the past year and a half due to his slightly higher popularity than that of the head of state . Within the president’s cabinet, “they don’t like competition,” the political scientist said. “Those close to Zaluzhny say he has no political ambitions, but people who like him think he could make a good president.”

Content with validating military decisions in the early months of the invasion, President Zelensky has steadily become increasingly directly involved in this area. In an article tracing the relationship between the two men published by Ukrainska Pravda on Monday, December 4, the authors of the investigation assert that the Ukrainian president, in a bid to bypass the commander-in-chief, has “created parallel channels of communication with the commanders of the various branches of the army” such as ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrskyi and air force commander Mykola Oleshchuk.

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