Zelensky appoints ex-top general as UK envoy

The Ukrainian president has discharged Valery Zaluzhny from military service “on health grounds”

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has dismissed his former top general, Valery Zaluzhny, from the military and appointed him as ambassador to the UK. Zaluzhny was fired by Zelensky from his command post in February after the two reportedly had a major falling out over strategy in the conflict with Russia.

A decree making Zaluzhny Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the UK was published on Zelensky’s website on Thursday. A day earlier, a separate decree discharged the 50-year-old general from military service “on health grounds with the right to wear a military uniform.”

Zaluzhny, who had served as the country’s military commander-in-chief since 2021 and held the post for most of the Ukraine conflict so far, was dismissed by Zelensky in February and replaced by General Aleksandr Syrsky, who was previously in charge of Kiev’s ground forces. 

While the Ukrainian president spoke of a “reset” in the military when commenting on Zaluzhny’s dismissal, the move came after the general suggested that the hostilities had reached a stalemate, a sentiment that Zelensky publicly pushed back against. Several polls at the time also showed that Zaluzhny had a higher approval rating than the Ukrainian leader, with media reports indicating that Zelensky viewed the veteran general as a political rival.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the firing of Zaluzhny would not change the course of the conflict. In the weeks that followed, Russia made some progress on the battlefield in Donbass, with Ukrainian officials, including Syrsky, describing the situation as increasingly tense.

Zaluzhny’s candidacy for the role of UK ambassador was approved by Zelensky in March. A request for agreement sent to London was approved in late April.

Kiev’s previous ambassador to the UK, Vadim Pristaiko, was sacked by Zelensky in the summer of 2023 after publicly criticizing the Ukrainian president. The controversy began when then-UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Ukraine was not showing enough gratitude for Western arms supplies. Zelensky replied that Kiev could thank London for its help “every morning” if it wants. Pristaiko slammed the Ukrainian president for what he called “unhealthy sarcasm.”

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