The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky communicates with some commanders of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, bypassing the Chief of Staff Valery Zaluzhny. This was reported by the web portal "Ukrayinska Pravda" which cites its sources. “Sometimes one gets the impression that Zelensky has two types of Armed Forces: the 'good' ones, which are led by (commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces Alexander) Syrsky and others favored by him, and the 'bad' ones, which are subordinate to Zaluzhny. This significantly demotivates the Chief of Staff and, above all, interferes with the command of the Armed Forces,” reports the information website, according to which Zelensky actually created parallel tracks for communication with the commanders of various branches of the Armed Forces , especially with Syrsky or Air Force commander Nikolai Oleshchuk. Such “direct reports”, according to the “Ukrayinska Pravda” source, destabilize the work of the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, who learns some information from his formal subordinates only later or, in fact, does not even know it at all.
“The level of tension between the president and the commander in chief of the Armed Forces increased especially after the start of the counteroffensive in the south. The presidential office regularly orders details about the political mood of Ukrainians, and the indicators in favor of Zaluzhny are constantly growing and increasing. The other day, one of the Telegram channels of the presidential office showed political ratings, in which Zelensky in the first round would get about 47 percent of the votes. The main point, however, is not whether the incumbent president will reach the second round with General Zaluzhny, but that Zelensky may not win this second round,” the “Ukrayinska Pravda” source emphasized. The disagreements between the president and the chief of staff are part of the more complex scenario of the conflict, which has been in a stalemate phase for some time and could, therefore, at a certain point force the resumption of negotiations between Kiev and Moscow.
After the decision to suspend the presidential elections, Zelensky last week made some statements apparently in contrast with the ban on holding talks with Russia - a law that he himself passed - as long as Vladimir Putin is in power. Zelensky's words seem to indicate that the president would not be willing to cede Crimea to the Russians - the peninsula represents the decisive pivot for the control of commercial traffic in the Black Sea - but also that he could accept the annexation of Donbass by Russia: this interpretation could be a message that the Ukrainian president wants to send to let it be known that "his step back" may not be necessary in the event that a window of opportunity opens for the resumption of peace negotiations.
Last week the web portal “Strana”, citing its sources, reported that the presidential office had ordered regional governors to “stop all communication” with the Chief of Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The aim of this "restrictive" measure would be to prevent "the regional elites from creating enthusiasm" around the figure of Zaluzhny. “Strana” defined the actions of Zelensky's office as a series of “activities aimed at destroying a potential competitor”. “Strana” in Ukraine is considered an opposition and generally pro-Russian media, and in 2021 it was blocked by the Ukrainian authorities on charges of having carried out propaganda activities in favor of Moscow. However, it continues to operate through alternative systems and by developing some of its social channels and on Youtube. It is fair to remember, however, that following the invasion of the country which began on 24 February 2022, the newspaper's web portal was also blocked in Russia, given its critical positions towards the Kremlin.
For weeks, various media have been reporting on the internal conflict between Zelensky and Zaluzhny. An article published yesterday by the British weekly "The Economist" reports that relations between the two are very bad. Furthermore, the recent interview given by Zaluzhny to "The Economist", during which the general declared that the war in Ukraine is at a stalemate, would have exacerbated the conflict between the two. The British weekly, in fact, recalls that after the publication of the interview, Zelensky publicly reprimanded the general, sending him a clear warning, namely "to stick to military affairs rather than engaging in politics". Previously, numerous Ukrainian and Western media had written about a possible conflict between Zelensky and Zaluzhny. A high-level government source for "The Economist" reported that the conflict between the two would be the "foreseeable" result of the stalled phase of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which "did not go according to plan". According to the source, Zaluzhny was perhaps unwise to contradict his president's more optimistic public positions, taking a liberty that few within the government could afford. Now therefore, continued the source of the British weekly, an attempt is underway to establish who is responsible for the military failure. “Politicians say their generals are Soviet-trained idiots. And the generals say that politicians are idiots who interfere in military affairs. Victory has many fathers, but no one wants to be the parent of a stalemate,” the source said.
Recently the US newspaper “Washington Post” noted that Zaluzhny, popular among his fellow citizens, could pose a threat to Zelensky if he decides to start a political career. Zaluzhny he has not officially expressed any political ambitions, but for "The Economist" this does not mean that the general does not represent a potential adversary for the president. The latter, a comedian until 2019, knows how quickly Ukrainian society can create and destroy its leaders. Some internal polls seen by the British weekly suggest that the president, until recently indicated as the only bulwark for his role in the country's defense, has been overshadowed by corruption scandals in his government. The data, which dates back to mid-November, shows that trust in the president has fallen to 32 percent, less than half that of General Zaluzhny (70 percent). Furthermore, the director of Ukrainian military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, can also count on better ratings than the president (45 percent).