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Zelenskyy names ex-army chief Zaluzhnyi ‘hero of Ukraine’

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President Volodymyr Zelenskyy named former army chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi a “Hero of Ukraine” on Friday, a day after he was replaced in the biggest shakeup of the war with Russia to date, according to Reuters.

Zaluzhnyi, a popular figure who oversaw Ukraine’s war effort throughout the Russian invasion, was replaced by ground forces commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi on Thursday.
 
The decision to confer Ukraine’s highest state award on Zaluzhniy is a sign that Zelenskyy’s team are trying to signal unity and respect for Zaluzhnyi after removing him as commander of the armed forces. It was announced in a decree on the president’s website.
 
Polls have indicated that Zaluzhnyi commands a larger share of the public’s trust than Zelenskyy. There is no hard data yet on the public response to his removal but many Ukrainians have openly questioned his sacking on social media.
 
The military shakeup followed months of speculation of a rift between Ukraine’s two most prominent wartime figures over their visions for the war against Russia, which is about to enter its third year.
 
As he announced the changes on Thursday, Zelenskyy said there was no politics at play in the move and that he felt a renewal was needed in the armed forces after the setbacks for Ukraine’s ground operations in 2023.
 
Ukrainian troops mounted a counteroffensive last summer but proved unable to break through heavily-defended Russian lines.
 
Since then a vital new package of U.S. military aid has been delayed for months by Republican congressional opposition.