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Ukraine’s Popular Iron General Replaced By Zelensky Amid Raging War

Valery Zarzini began his military training in the 1990s. (File)

Kyiv:

General Valery Zarzhiny, the commander of Ukraine’s military who was replaced on Thursday, became a national hero two years ago after defeating Moscow’s invading forces, but suffered setbacks on the battlefield as the war began.

The move comes after reports of friction between President Zelenskiy and President Zelenskiy, whose authority will be tested as he seeks to rally troops under a new military commander and change the dynamics of the war. The move ends intense speculation over the president’s fate.

While Ukrainian forces have struggled with a counterattack launched in June last year that has made little headway in the south and east, Russian forces have inflicted small but heavy losses in several parts of the 1,000-kilometre (1,000 km) front.

Western military and financial support will no longer be guaranteed, leaving Kiev even more vulnerable to attacks by Russian drones and missiles that will deprive Ukraine of its resources.

Given Zarzny’s popularity and proven ability as an inspiring commander, the fact that Zelenskiy will replace him may reflect a desire for a new approach on the battlefield.

In an op-ed published by CNN on February 1, Zaruvzny reiterated his view that Ukraine can only compete with Russia’s much larger military through technological innovations, including drones and other advanced weapons. Ta.

He also criticized state institutions for failing to pass an unpopular bill to reform the way Ukrainians are mobilized for combat amid a shortage of soldiers and growing fatigue among those already in service.

a hero to many

Despite the odds, Ukrainian soldiers used stealth and speed to stop Russia’s advance on Kiev in February 2022, ensuring Russian President Vladimir Putin remains far from conquering Ukraine. Contributed to make sure that it is not.

Zarzini’s stock rose as the war progressed, and as his forces launched counterattacks in the northeast and south, retaking large tracts of land and raising hopes of an unlikely victory, he was praised at home and abroad. Collected.

His portrait, smiling and flashing a peace sign, was spray-painted on a wall in the southern city of Kherson after its liberation, under the slogan “God and Zarzini are with us.”

Ukraine’s momentum on the battlefield has stalled since then, but polls show that Zaruzhny remains trusted by 92% of Ukrainians in a poll late last year, significantly ahead of Zelenskiy’s 77%. exceeded.

Friction between the two men reportedly surfaced in November after Zarouzhny was quoted in The Economist magazine as saying the war was at a “stalemate,” but this pessimistic assessment was echoed by Zelenskiy. was at odds with his more optimistic vision.

The 50-year-old four-star general, who rarely speaks in public but is sometimes shown on breaking news reports looking at maps or speaking to exhausted commanders, says he believes technology is the key to breaking the impasse. He also said at the time that improving his skills was the key.

The presidential palace reprimanded him, and one of Zarzhni’s senior officers said he was fired by Zelenskiy over a dispute over the general’s head.

If he were to enter politics, the “Iron General” could become a formidable force, although he has never expressed any political ambitions.

Robust “volunteer”

Zarzhny began military training in the 1990s after Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union, graduating with honors and rising through the ranks.

He experienced real conflict in 2014, working in an area of ​​eastern Ukraine that had been taken over by Russian-backed extremists.

Tall, muscular and with close-cropped hair, Zarzini, whose military call sign is “Volunteer,” is known for his good relationships with his subordinates and for allowing local commanders to make their own decisions on the battlefield. There is.

Warnings in November that the war was moving into a phase of attrition in Russia’s favor were a departure from official rhetoric in Kiev, but for many soldiers it was a painful realization on the battlefield.

Russia has been building fortifications since late 2022 after humiliating defeats in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions, which halted recent Ukrainian advances.

Tens of thousands of soldiers were killed or wounded on both sides, although there are no reliable official figures.

Ukraine is in dire need of replacing its overstretched and exhausted military, but the government has failed to amend its muster law to support the recruitment of up to 500,000 additional troops.

Kiev is also struggling to maintain Western support vital to its war effort.

The European Union has extended a new $54 billion aid package to Ukraine, overcoming weeks of resistance from Hungary, while the United States has failed to deliver on the huge aid it had promised. Agreed.

Still, as Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II enters its third year, Mr. Zarzini’s responsibilities will be difficult to meet.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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