Last week, news appeared on the Ukrainian website Strana that President Zelensky had ordered regional governors to “stop all communication” with the Ukrainian chief of army staff, Valery Zaluzhny. The tone and tenor of the order could be interpreted as Zelensky trying to cut the wings of a potential competitor.
Strana is generally considered pro-Russian media and critical of Ukraine. The Channel was blocked by the Ukrainian authorities in 2021 on the charges that it carried out propaganda activities favoring Moscow. However, the channel continues to develop alternative systems.
Rumors of internal conflict between Zelensky and the Ukrainian chief of staff have recently made rounds in media circles.
An article published in the British weekly The Economist on November 28 reported that relations between the President and his army chief are terrible. The reasons for the differences between the two were not disclosed. But some of these speculated in various circles could be summed up as follows.
The immediate reason why orders that all regional governors stop communicating with Valery Zaluzhny, the army chief, had to be issued was that in an interview, the General had said that a stalemate had ensued in the war with Russia.
Reacting to this statement, Zelensky, almost rebuking, advised the General to remain confined to the defense area and not indulge in public affairs outside his domain.
Ukrainian soldiers endure the trenches, soaked now into streams of mud by autumn rains; officials and politicians in Ukraine and allied capitals have been passing around blame for the stalled Ukrainian counteroffensive that began in June and has advanced only a dozen or 80 miles through densely mined fields.
Americans have blamed Ukraine for dispersing its forces too widely. Zelensky said his army did not receive sufficient weaponry to advance. Speculation about tension between the president and the military’s commanding general over strategy and command appointments had been swirling in Kyiv for more than a year.
General Zaluzhny published an article in The Economist that asserted that drone reconnaissance and their technologies had rendered mechanized assault by either side impossible. Further advances were improbable, and Ukraine would not reach a “beautiful breakthrough “in the war without receiving more advanced weaponry.
Reading between the lines of General Zaluzhny’s article, one finds severe differences in war strategy and tactics. Zhovka, the deputy in the president’s office, said General Zaluzhny’s remarks might reflect “a deep strategic ocean” but risked harming Ukraine’s war effort.”
He said the essay had spurred foreign officials’ call, asking, “What should I report to my leader? Are you really at a dead end?” He added, ”Was this the effect we wanted to achieve?”
Professor Olexy Harab at the National University of Kyiv Moyle Academy said what Zhovkva is saying is “that it’s better to communicate on this behind closed doors.”
Seymour Hersh Story
A story related to secret peace talks for Ukraine was published by Seymour Hersh, which the Russian media picked up. It said that General Valerii Zaluzhny and Russian General Valery Gerasimov are secretly negotiating a deal that could potentially end the Ukraine war, reported the Asia Times on December 2.
The story is supported by “anonymous sources,” allegedly in the US intelligence establishment, adds the paper. Of course, the story’s veracity must be considered if we begin to believe in it.
Surprisingly, the Russian report on the Hersh story has disappeared. But as far as the position of President Zelensky is concerned, he has made it clear that the Ukrainian government will not — nor, legally, can it — negotiate with Moscow because of legislation prohibiting it.
However, following Hersh’s story, Russian papers say there are two broad conditions for a deal between the generals. The first is that Ukraine shall have to accept Russian control over the whole or part of the Ukrainian territory it holds presently. The second is that Russia would not object to Ukraine joining NATO, provided there are no NATO bases in Ukraine.
These are debatable issues. The entire narrative essentially moves around NATO willy-nilly wanting Ukraine as its member, which Moscow defines as a severe security threat. How can Russia allow a wolf to be in its backyard?
Apart from this, the idea of territory originated with a balloon trial Zaluzhny floated some months ago in two different ways. The first was a hint that Russia considered Ukraine to live without the territories occupied by Russia.
The second hint was that Ukraine’s army should pull back from the line of contact and set up strong defense perimeters for survival. Ultimately, the parties directly involved will have to sit down and talk peace, but the security issue raised by Moscow will not die down.
If General Zaluzhny is privately talking to his Russian counterpart, the purpose is to stop the bleeding down of Ukraine’s soldiers. The irony is that Zelensky is now saying the same thing.
In an interview with AP, Zelensky said, “There is not enough power to achieve the desired results faster. Kyiv failed to achieve desired results during the summer counteroffensive,” quoted Sputnik International.
A recent opinion-taking exercise shows President Zelensky’s popularity has recently fallen below 65 percent. Reports are that there are profound differences within the army echelons in Kyiv, where many army commanders do not see eye-to-eye with the tactics framed by the President.
It appears that many members of NATO raise questions about the result of NATO countries supplying arms to Ukraine. There is also waning interest in the war in Ukraine with the US after the outbreak of Israel-Hamas fighting.
The attention of world powers is shifting from East Europe to the Middle East. All these signs do not bode well for President Zelensky. The time has come that he should give up obstinacy in the lives of millions of his compatriots and the future of his country.
Before feeling isolated and sidelined completely, he must recall General Zaluzhny and constructively build an atmosphere of resilient negotiations.