As Ukraine’s desperate situation sees tensions boiling over between a deluded president and his Nazi-sympathising Commander in Chief, World Socialist Website writers Jason Melanovski and Clara Weiss were offering useful context today, February 2nd.
Ukrainian President Zelensky attempted to remove commander-in-chief General Valery Zaluzhnyi on Monday by asking for his resignation, signalling a new stage in the ongoing political crisis of the Ukrainian government.
According to Western and Ukrainian reports, Zelensky and Defense Minister Rustem Umerov asked for Zaluzhnyi to step down quietly and move into a less powerful position as head of National Security and Defense. When Zaluzhnyi refused, Zelensky allegedly threatened to fire him.
The Financial Times reported, based on two sources familiar with the discussions, “Zelenskyy made clear to Zaluzhny that regardless of whether he took the role, he would be removed,” and that this decision had been taken even though he “may not be ousted for some time after leaks appeared in Ukrainian media.”
Immediately after the Monday meeting, word spread on both Russian and Ukrainian Telegram channels that a serious power struggle was afoot, setting the stage for a potential revolt against the Zelensky government.
Within hours, the Defense Ministry had to abandon the firing, and released an obviously rushed statement on Telegram, “Dear journalists, we reply to all of you at once: No, it’s not true,” while Zelensky spokesman Sergey Nikiforov also said Zelensky “didn’t fire the commander-in-chief.”
On Tuesday, Western outlets such as the Guardian, Financial Times and Economist all released their own retellings of the meeting, indicating that a dismissal of Zaluzhnyi would be opposed by the imperialist powers. The Financial Times warned that the move could “unnerve Ukraine’s western partners, including military officials who have worked closely with the general over the past two years on battlefield strategies.”
BBC Ukraine cited “interlocutors of the BBC” within the Ukrainian authorities, who reported that “Kyiv’s Western partners expressed sharp disapproval of Zaluzhny’s resignation. This version can be justified quite easily. Ukraine is now completely dependent on Western military and financial aid. Moreover, the coming days promise to be critical in providing Kyiv with multi-billion-dollar tranches of European and US support.”
BBC Ukraine noted that Zelensky had no replacement for Zaluzhny, as his two favored choices — Kiril Budanov, currently head of Military Intelligence, and Commander of Ground Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi — had both refused to take up the vacated position of Zaluzhnyi.
Illia Ponomarenko, a war reporter for the pro-NATO Kyiv Independent previously embedded with the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, wrote on X/Twitter: “If you ask me, the dismissal of General Zaluzhny would be a massive shot in the head. Zaluzhny has his reputation as an iron general and national Salvator, the embodiment of the Ukrainian armed forces that saved this country against an enemy as fearsome as Russia.”
Ponomarenko went on to state, menacingly, “The apocalyptic rampage taking place now amid rumors on Telegram [re Zeluzhnyi’s dismissal] is a walk in the park compared to what would be happening if Zelensky really signs a dismissal order.”
The war has made Zaluzhnyi one of the most powerful figures in the country, polling far above Zelensky of late. He has been a key liaison with NATO and US military figures including Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At the same time, he has never made a secret of his admiration for Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Banderaand is photographedrepeatedly with far-right paraphernalia. As C-in-C he has overseen neo-Nazi groups like the Azov integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces, and is no doubt closely tied to them.