Sources say Zelensky trying to directly control Ukraine army

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is bypassing General Valery Zaluzhny, the country’s top military leader, to give orders directly to commanders, the Ukrainskaya Pravda news outlet has reported, citing sources close to the leadership in Kiev.

Zaluzhny sometimes only learns of what the military is doing from his subordinates, the report claimed. Zelensky and the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces have been at loggerheads for months, and Kiev’s failed summer counteroffensive has worsened the tensions, according to insiders.

The president has created “parallel tracks” of communication with senior military leaders, including Aleksandr Syrsky, commander of the ground forces, and Nikolay Oleshchuk, commander of the air force, the report added. Zelensky’s office is said to find this convenient, but the practice has disrupted the normal chain of command, much to Zaluzhny’s chagrin.

“It seems that Zelensky has two kinds of the ZSU (Ukrainian armed forces): the ‘good’ guys commanded by Syrsky and other favorites, and the ‘bad’ guys who answer to Zaluzhny,” a source close to the administration was quoted as saying. The result is reportedly a demotivated commander-in-chief who cannot fully control the military.

Ukrainskaya Pravda added Zelensky’s men, including chief of staff Andrey Yermak, have been escalating the tensions due to Zaluzhny’s perceived political ambitions since at least April 2022. They pressured the general into dropping an idea for a charity, which they believed could grow into a future political party.

Ukrainians’ trust in Zaluzhny surpassed that of Zelensky even last year, the report noted. A recent public opinion poll conducted for the president’s office indicated that in a hypothetical election, Zelensky would lose to Zaluzhny in a second-round vote, the news outlet added.

Zaluzhny occasionally demonstrates his disdain with Zelensky’s leadership, according to insiders, including when he issued a veiled rebuke to the decision to axe all regional draft bosses in the summer following a major corruption scandal.

Shortly after hearing about the sackings at a government meeting, Zaluzhny reported a sharp drop in conscription numbers all over Ukraine, a source told the outlet.

The general reportedly complained about civilian interference in military affairs to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin when he visited Kiev last month. Zelensky subsequently learned of this, which “didn’t add trust” between the two Ukrainians, an insider said.

The report further claimed that Zelensky had stopped arguing with Zaluzhny since Austin’s visit, but had instead resorted to sarcasm.

“The president asks something like, ‘how is our heroic advancement, did you retreat 200 meters?’ and Valery maintains an angry silence,” a source stated, describing exchanges between the pair.

In a recent interview, presidential chief of staff Yermak dismissed reports of a Zelensky-Zaluzhny rift as a Russian invention intended to undermine Ukrainian unity.

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