Kyiv Post correspondent hit the streets of Kyiv to get a firsthand opinion on this potentially high-profile development within the big war, which has been grinding for almost two years without any clear endgame in sight.
Some people believe that the Presidential office is just feeling out public sentiment by circulating rumors about Zaluzhny's dismissal.
“They’re just putting out a feeler. Zelensky wanted to gauge how the public would react, so someone in the President’s Office leaked the information. If the response is negative, they won’t take any action. If not, they might dismiss him later,” said 39-year-old Danylo, a video game store worker.
Viktor, a 57-year-old military pensioner, also suspected that Zelensky’s administration initiated the rumors to divert Ukrainians’ attention from pending issues and due to mounting concerns on Bankova Street that Zaluzhny’s rating may surpass the President’s.
“Well, someone is inflating the information field because it needs to be filled with something. Whether it’s true or not, the top leadership is allegedly concerned that his [Zaluzhny’s] popularity and rating are increasing, fearing that his rating may surpass the president’s. Although I believe, and some others believe, that not everything is transparent in the Presidential Office itself,” said Viktor.
Artur, a 34-year-old programmer at a bank, also believed in the Presidential Office’s involvement and referred to the incident as part of an “information war.”
“The information war is escalating, that’s all. They want to create discord among everyone. They want society to believe that everything is over and lost. They exert moral pressure, perhaps from within the country...
“I don’t exclude that people are from inside. It’s just that many people are tired of it all, of the war. It seems that maybe if it ends, it would be better. They are testing people’s reactions,” said Artur.
Olena, a 26-year-old woman, also thought the rumors were there to gauge people’s reactions but did not believe them: “It’s just some kind of disinformation, that’s all. I didn’t react to it; I just laughed, and that’s it.”
While some have believed the decision was indeed made but reverted due to social outrage – as suggested by the initial confirmation of multiple political figures as reported earlier by Kyiv Post – some people tend to believe that nothing even close to Zaluzhny's resignation might be even taking place.
“I believe all the talk about Zaluzhny’s dismissal is a lie. It seems like fake information,” said 19-year-old student Yulia, who said she has a neutral attitude towards Zaluzhny.
Vitaly Volodymyrovych, an 80-year-old pensioner, also considered it fake news and said that he didn't see a more appropriate candidate for this role.
“I have a negative stance towards these dismissal rumors. It’s all fake; there won’t be any resignation. I support Zaluzhny in his position. I don’t see a more worthy candidate,” said Volodymyrovych.
Ihor, a 60-year-old man, when asked about the rumors by our correspondent, has gone off at people for catching up on fake messages and compared the public discussion to a “flea market.”
“It’s disheartening to see people engaging in rumors instead of focusing on their work. It feels like a flea market. I’m not sure if Zaluzhny should remain in his position; I’m not a military expert to understand if he’s needed there or not,” said Ihor.
Yet, even with Valery Zaluzhny’s global recognition, some residents of Kyiv still have no clue of who he is.
“I work every day, seven days a week, so I haven’t read the news. I don’t know who Zaluzhny is. It’s my husband who follows politics and news, but I don’t,” said Iryna, a 38-year-old salesperson at a make-up store.
The story about Zaluzhny’s dismissal began this time with a post on Facebook and the Bereza Telegram channel, written by a former People’s Deputy and well-known public figure and political commentator, Boryslav Bereza.
“The information is confirmed. Zelensky has removed Chief Commissar Zaluzhny. Today is a holiday in Moscow...” said Bereza at 6:37 p.m.
An hour later, Bereza posted another update on Telegram, stating that Zaluzhny had reportedly rejected Zelensky’s proposal to exchange his Commander-in-Chief position for leading the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.
Additionally, according to Bereza’s sources, both Military Intelligence Directorate (HUR) Chief Kyrylo Budanov and Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi allegedly declined to assume Zaluzhny’s role.
No one knows for certain what happened, as the Ministry of Defense quickly dispelled the rumor with a simple message.
“Dear journalists, we immediately answer everyone: No, this is not true,” read the ministry’s Telegram announcement at 7:41 p.m.
Zaluzhny himself posted on his own Facebook account on Monday night – a joint photo with Lt. Gen. Serhiy Shaptala, seeming to demonstrate to everyone that he is in place and the unity of his team should not be doubted.
Zelensky did not comment on the Zaluzhny rumors, neither in his nightly address nor on any of his social networks.
At the time of writing – Wednesday noon – there have been no official announcements about a change in the Commander-in-Chief's post.
So, for now, Gen. Zaluzhny remains in his place, and Kyiv Post will continue to monitor the situation and continue to inform you about this and the other most relevant events affecting Ukraine.
A potential rift between Zelensky and Zaluzhny has been circulating for some time since the end of 2023, gaining fuel when a column and interview were published by The Economist on Nov. 1, in which Zaluzhny said that in the Russo-Ukrainian War, both sides have “reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate.”
“Zaluzhny’s column was a surprise. It is difficult to answer why he formulated his thoughts in this way,” a source from the president's office told Kyiv Post.
No one would have forbidden the commander-in-chief to express his point of view, but Zelensky would have liked to have been informed that the article was going to be published.
“Zelensky told Zaluzhny at the headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief that he should have talked to him about the column. Afterward, Zaluzhny apologized,” the source said.
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