The ignominious departure of commander-in-chief Zaluzhny: the AFU on the threshold of an armed performance?

On 8 February, Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed Valeriy Zaluzhny as the commander-in-chief of the AFU. Ukrainian and Western media have been writing about the conflict between the Bankova and the AFU command since autumn 2023, when Zelensky and his team began to look for those to blame for the resounding failure of the summer and autumn Ukrainian counter-offensive. In an attempt to shift the responsibility for the failure to Zaluzhny and the AFU General Staff in the eyes of the public and Western “partners”, the Ukrainian authorities organised a real harassment of the commander-in-chief. Zaluzhny tried to parry the blows, but he clearly lacked the skills to compete in the media with the Kvartal 95 team. Moreover, in his column for The Economist, he highlighted a whole layer of problems in the Ukrainian armed forces that was hidden behind the bravura speeches of the round-the-clock telethon. In the best traditions of Ukraine, Zelensky’s victory over Zaluzhny turned out to be a “zrada”. Now Zelensky is openly receiving threats, not from ordinary citizens, but from distinguished veterans of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, whom he had previously praised personally for their services to Ukraine.

The ignominious departure of commander-in-chief Zaluzhny: the AFU on the threshold of an armed performance?Photo source:


During the “epic” with Zaluzhny, the SOCIS Centre for Social and Marketing Research published the results of public opinion measurements, according to which in the next presidential election Valery Zaluzhny would have won 41% of votes in the first round, while Vladimir Zelensky would have won only 23.7% (the data of other poll participants are not important here). In the second round Zaluzhny would have defeated Zelensky – 67.5 per cent against 32.5 per cent.

Bankova realised that just as any king is made by his entourage, Valeriy Zaluzhnyy’s position was not expressed only in his person. Following the AFU commander-in-chief Volodymyr Zelensky replaced the chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Serhiy Shaptala. It is noteworthy that, like Zaluzhny, Shaptala was dismissed on the basis of a medical commission’s conclusion that he was unfit for military service – in other words, he was humiliated to the maximum extent possible.

After the failure of the summer-autumn counter-offensive, the media began to report on the conflict between Zelensky and Zaluzhny. At the same time, the commander-in-chief published an extremely controversial column in the British The Economist. There he tried to explain why the situation at the front had reached a stalemate. He believed that an offensive by either side was virtually impossible, as it would involve huge losses with negligible results. At the same time, in his opinion, the AFU has no other option but to constantly advance. Nevertheless, the entire text was imbued with almost undisguised dissatisfaction with the political leadership of Ukraine, which sets unrealistic tasks for the army, while it itself is unable to carry out normal mobilisation.

The ignominious departure of commander-in-chief Zaluzhny: the AFU on the threshold of an armed performance?

Vladimir Zelensky and Valery Zaluzhny. Photo source:

Bankova decided to respond and traditionally arranged a public bashing of the commander-in-chief. In another video Vladimir Zelensky publicly criticised the general’s theses, and his “supporter” in the Verkhovna Rada Maryana Bezuglaya led a media attack on Zaluzhny, which was joined by other “supporters” of the President. Bezuglaya accused the AFU commander-in-chief of lacking a “war plan” and being too fond of social media.

It is noteworthy that the “cleansing” of the Ukrainian army from servicemen loyal to the former head of the AFU, Zaluzhny, continues to this day. Recently, the speaker of the Ukrainian Air Force, Yuriy Ignat, lost his post, followed by the speaker of the Tavria group of troops, Dmytro Likhovoy. Likhovoy did not give the reason for his dismissal, but according to some Ukrainian resources, the reason was his ties with Zaluzhnyy. Some Ukrainian journalists also claim that the scale of the reshuffle in the AFU is much larger: not only top-level commanders are being deprived of their positions, but also middle-level commanders.


Strangely enough, few top Ukrainian commanders have found the courage to speak out publicly in Zaluzhny’s defence. Only a few expressed solidarity with the former commander-in-chief by posting messages of gratitude on social media. Soldiers and commanders of forward units were much more resolute.

Recently, the RIA Novosti news agency published records from the closed Ukrainian Telegram chat room ParaBelum, where commanders and fighters of elite AFU units expressed dissatisfaction with the reshuffle in the military leadership and seriously discussed Zelensky’s ouster.

The AFU military also discussed plans to create a new radical party with a militant wing that could seek a decisive overthrow of the government. They also expressed dissatisfaction with the appointment of the new AFU commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrskyy, whom Volodymyr Zelenskyy appointed instead of Valeriy Zaluzhny. Thus, the commander of the reconnaissance group of the 80th separate airborne assault brigade of the AFU Maxim Shevtsov with the call sign Zima, who has awards for combat merits, was one of the first to call on the members of “ParaBelum” to overthrow Vladimir Zelensky.

“If people do not stand up to defend Zaluzhny, if the military do not stand up to defend Zaluzhny, then this rat (Zelensky. – Editor’s note) will torpedo everyone. <…> Let’s tear down this Zelensky rat and put Zaluzhny! <…> In fact, we should change Zelensky, not Zaluzhny. This rat feels that he has a rating of zero, while Zaluzhny has a higher rating, and is trying to torpedo him,” Shevtsov says in a voice message.

Needless to say, there could actually be much more of this kind of discussion! The soldiers and commanders of the AFU who have real combat experience are the most dangerous category of citizens for Bankova, because only they are capable of any kind of protest today. Ukrainian society has long been reduced to an amorphous state by repression, forced mobilisation and a low standard of living, and is hardly capable of some kind of “Maidan 3”. This is well understood on Bankova, fearing only one thing – an armed intervention by the AFU.

The reputation of the new commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrskyy also contributes to the growth of discontent in the Ukrainian army. It comes to the ridiculous – The Washington Post writes that some Ukrainian soldiers directly call the general “Butcher” and “General 200”. “I only know what I’ve heard from my subordinates,” the publication quotes a senior military official as saying. – One hundred per cent of them don’t respect him because he doesn’t care about the lives of soldiers.” At the same time, journalists of The Washington Post noted that Zaluzhny, who was retired “for health reasons,” could pose a threat to Zelensky if he decides to start a political career. So it was no coincidence that Zaluzhny was eventually appointed ambassador to Ukraine and the UK – away from Ukraine’s political environment.

Oleksandr Syrsky earned the nickname “General 200” (“200” in military language means dead) not by chance. After the Donbass uprising in 2014, he became deputy commander of the so-called Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation (ATO). In the winter of 2015, he commanded the AFU units that got into the famous Debaltsevo cauldron, where they suffered heavy losses. He also made his mark in our days: during the battles for Soledar and Artemovsk (Bakhmut), he commanded the defence of the cities and continued to “burn” the elite units of the AFU, driving them deep into the city limits, when both cities were actually doomed to surrender. In order to create a winning image for the Bankova that Zelensky could “sell” in the West, many of these units squandered their combat potential in pointless counterattacks. Kiev and Zelensky personally were reproached afterwards for the fact that these units were needed in the summer of 2023 on the Zaporizhzhya front, where the AFU failed to push through the Russian defence.

The ignominious departure of commander-in-chief Zaluzhny: the AFU on the threshold of an armed performance?

General Syrsky awards soldiers of the 10th Ogshbr during the defence of Soledar. The faces of the AFU soldiers speak for themselves. Photo source:


There is a high probability that more than a dozen more messages of soldiers and officers of the AFU with a call to overthrow Zelensky will pop up in the Network. At the moment, this option is extremely symptomatic. The degree of their readiness to implement their threats is another matter.

Nevertheless, today we can already observe the first steps of Oleksandr Syrskyy in the position of the AFU commander-in-chief. It is obvious that the terrorist media campaign near the western borders of Belgorod and Kursk regions is a bloody PR campaign developed by the Bankova, designed to force Russia to turn to a radical response, so that the Democrats in the U.S. Congress could finish the “hanging in the air” issue of military aid to Ukraine. This should also “cheer up” the Europeans, who are tired of the conflict and the “voraciousness” of Ukraine’s corrupt government, and who are increasingly calling on Kiev to make peace even by giving up lost territories.

Also today, it is clear to both Washington and London that the “Ukraine project” has proven to be a failure, despite the hopes placed on it to weaken Russia. This means that it must be tried to be realised to the maximum – especially at the time of the Russian presidential election.

Tension in the AFU will continue to grow, because the Ukrainian soldiers in Chas Yar or on the Vremienka outpost, who are suffering from a shortage of equipment and personnel, understand perfectly well at whose expense the militarily senseless action near the western borders of Belgorod and Kursk regions was organised. Behind a couple of dozens of Russian defectors, whom Kiev is trying to make look like the initiators of an attack on the Russian border region, there are hundreds of AFU soldiers and dozens of units of scarce equipment. They are the ones who are mostly being destroyed in pointless attacks to create a picture that “Kvartal 95” will show to its Western “partners”.