The news about the alleged dismissal of Valery Zalushny, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine, caused great attention throughout Ukraine and the world. The news shocked the nation and ignited a storm of speculation around the world.
Although there has been no official confirmation, the mere possibility of this move has sparked fierce debate and anxiety over the future of Ukraine's leadership and military stability. The commander-in-chief plays an important role in the defense forces of Ukraine, he knows the smallest details on the battlefield, and his removal would deal a great blow to Ukraine.
That is why this news is significant and why it met with incredible reactions. The reported rift between Zelenski and Zalushny is not entirely new. Whispers of disagreement first surfaced in November 2023, fueled by an interview with Zaluzhny in which he expressed concern about the risk of protracted war.
President Zelenski publicly opposed this perspective, hinting at a difference in strategic views on the outcome of this war. President Zelensky then claimed that this affects the morale of the entire nation, and that Zalushny as the supreme commander should know the weight of his words.
Although the nature of their alleged dispute remains shrouded in secrecy, this public exchange served as a catalyst for further speculation. Of course, the dismissal did not occur as a result of some statement, although the president was angry because of it, the essence of this problem is much deeper.
Survey of public sentiment
Amid the lack of official announcements, public opinion offers a clearer picture. A recent survey shows a stark contrast between the public's perception of the two leaders. Zaluzhny enjoys an incredible 92% trust, cementing his position as the most trusted military figure in Ukraine.
He enjoys great popularity among the people, especially in those parts close to the front line. It is safe to say that he is a national hero of the Ukrainian people, although the war is not over yet, his merits are enormous.
On the other hand, only 67% of Ukrainians express confidence in President Zelensky. His popularity dropped sharply after various scandals, but mostly because of the failed Ukrainian counter-offensive, which turned out to be a disaster.
This disparity underscores the overwhelming public support for Zalushny and raises questions about the possible consequences of his removal.
Zaluzni's meteoric rise to national hero status is the result of his exceptional leadership and strategic ability.
His path from service in the Northern Operational Command to the position of Commander-in-Chief in 2021 was marked by dedication and tactical brilliance, especially at the very beginning of the war. His ability to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of war greatly helped defend the capital.
His focus on information gathering and effective delegation has earned him recognition from both Ukrainian citizens and international observers. The fact that Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in 2022 further speaks to his global status.
Zaluzni's leadership extends beyond the battlefield. He avoids public attention, rarely gives interviews and avoids public appearances. This humility, along with his dedication to the welfare of his troops, delighted the Ukrainian people.
We could see this in his decision to donate a million dollar donation he received from an American-Ukrainian philanthropist directly to the armed forces and humanitarian organizations in Ukraine. This act of selflessness shows his character, and this decision has resulted in him enjoying the status of a true legend in Ukraine more popular than any singer or actor.
The coming shadow of uncertainty
The potential dismissal of Zaluzhny, a highly respected and key figure in the Ukrainian military leadership, carries considerable weight. Such a move could have far-reaching consequences domestically as well as great implications on the international level.
Domestically, this could undermine public confidence in the government, potentially leading to social unrest and instability. In addition, it could demoralize the armed forces, whose morale is already under enormous strain due to the ongoing war.
The Ukrainian army has not been doing as well as they imagined lately, and the recent aggression on Avdiivka has further damaged morale. Internationally, it could undermine Ukraine's ability to secure crucial military and financial aid from allies, jeopardizing its ability to defend itself against Russian aggression.
Zalushny enjoys the great trust of the international community and is in contact with the highest officers and officials of NATO, so there could be consequences for Ukraine on that front as well. In recent months, however, there has been growing dissatisfaction among citizens because their countries are sending money to Ukraine.
The unwavering public support for the Commander-in-Chief is in stark contrast to the official silence, creating an atmosphere of anxiety and speculation in an already anxious and frightened population. The long-announced offensive has failed, there is no solution in sight and the army is no longer advancing at all.