President Volodymyr Zelensky has awarded Valery Zaluzhny, the former commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), the title of Hero of Ukraine along with the Golden Star order, as stated in the relevant decree published on the president's website.

Zaluzhny led the Ukrainian army since Russia's full-scale invasion began, successfully defending against initial Russian attacks and reclaiming some occupied territories.

“For notable personal merits in the protection of state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, selfless service to the Ukrainian people,” the document read.

By a separate decree, Zelensky also awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine to Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) of the Ministry of Defense.

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Both decrees are dated February 8, 2024.

The title of Hero of Ukraine is the highest degree of distinction in Ukraine, awarded to Ukrainian citizens for remarkable heroic deeds or outstanding labor achievements.

Recipients of the Hero of Ukraine title are awarded the Golden Star order for notable heroic acts or the State Order for extraordinary labor achievements.

Over the past few months, rumors regarding the conflict between Zaluzhny and Zelensky, as well as the president's intentions to dismiss the commander-in-chief of the AFU, have regularly surfaced in the Ukrainian media.

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During the first days of February, several media outlets reported that Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrsky, following Budanov's lead, rejected Zelensky's offer to assume the post of the AFU Commander-in-Chief in place of Zaluzhny.

Nonetheless, on Thursday, February 8, President Zelensky announced the replacement of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Zaluzhny.

In a social media post, Zelensky stated that he had met with Zaluzhny and expressed gratitude for his two years of defending Ukraine. They discussed the necessary renewal for the AFU and deliberated on potential candidates to join the renewed leadership of the Armed Forces.

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Ukraine's defense minister, Rustem Umerov, confirmed Zaluzhny's removal from his post, stating: “A decision was made to change the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Zelensky asked Zaluzhny to remain part of the team.

After announcing his dismissal, Zaluzhny said: “The tasks of 2022 are different from those of 2024.

“Therefore, everyone must change and adapt to the new realities in order to win together.”

Zaluzhny was replaced by Oleksandr Syrsky, who commanded Ukrainian forces defending Kyiv and Kharkiv.

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