Zelensky Names Ukraine’s Ex-Top General Ambassador to U.K.

Zelensky Names Ukraine’s Ex-Top General Ambassador to U.K.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Thursday appointed Valery Zaluzhny as his new ambassador to Britain, just a month after he removed him from his post as the country’s top general amid tensions between the military and civilian leadership.

“Gen. Valery Zaluzhny told me that this is the direction he would like to take — diplomacy,” Mr. Zelensky said in a video statement, adding that Ukraine’s “alliance with Britain should only get stronger” with this appointment.

Mr. Zelensky made the announcement on a day when the British defense secretary, Grant Shapps, visited Kyiv. Mr. Shapps said that his country would supply more than 10,000 drones to the Ukrainian Army as part of an existing military aid package that received additional funding, for a total of about $415 million.

Questions about General Zaluzhny’s fate had abounded since he was removed from his role last month. His dismissal was seen as the result of Mr. Zelensky’s frustration at the failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive last summer, but also possibly of his fears that the general, a very popular figure in Ukraine, might become a political opponent in the future.

General Zaluzhny was replaced by Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, then the head of Ukraine’s ground forces. The new commander in chief has since had to oversee the Ukrainian retreat from the strategic city of Avdiivka in the east and face repeated Russian attacks along a front line stretching more than 600 miles.

General Zaluzhny is nicknamed the Iron General for his decisive leadership of the country’s army at its most challenging times, including the defense of the capital, Kyiv, in the first weeks of the war.

He then devised and spearheaded a long-expected counteroffensive in the south last year. But the push failed to break through formidable Russian defensive lines, and Ukrainian troops advanced just a few miles. General Zaluzhny offered a candid assessment of the fighting in November, noting that it had reached a stalemate.

General Zaluzhny retained high levels of support even after the counteroffensive failed. Meanwhile, Mr. Zelensky’s ratings started to fall, prompting some in Ukraine to regard them as political rivals.

Though General Zaluzhny has never publicly expressed his desire to enter politics, political analysts on Thursday interpreted his new appointment as a possible maneuver by Mr. Zelensky to distance him from domestic affairs.

“That’s a political move,” said Mykola Davydiuk, a Ukrainian political analyst. “For Zelensky, the motivation is to block him in the media, that he disappears from here, that he’s no longer active.”

It is unknown when General Zaluzhny will take up his new post as ambassador, and he made no immediate public comment on his new appointment.

Kyle C. Garrison

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