Politics

Zelensky Sidelines Political Rival as He Taps Zaluzhny as UK Ambassador

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has officially backed the appointment of former Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s armed forces Valerii Zaluzhny as the next ambassador to Britain in a move widely regarded as an attempt to sideline the president’s top political opponent.

In a video statement, President Zelensky announced this week his support for General Zaluzhny to serve as the country’s next diplomat to the United Kingdom after being removed from his top military post earlier this year following the failures of the counteroffensive launched against Russia last year.

“Gen. Valery Zaluzhny told me that this is the direction he would like to take — diplomacy,” Mr Zelensky said, adding: “Our alliance with Britain should only get stronger”.

Upon the likely approval of London, Zaluzhny would replace Vadym Prystaiko, who was kicked out of his role last July after mildly criticising President Zelensky in public.

Zaluzhny earned widespread respect in Ukraine and internationally for leading the successful pushback of the Russians from Kyiv during the outset of the war in 2022. However, he appeared to lose the confidence of the government following the much-heralded, yet ultimately failed counteroffensive last year.

The final straw was seemingly his public admission that the war had devolved into a World War I-style stalemate, with him being removed from his position as Commander-in-Chief three months later.

Although a significant step-down, Zaluzhny will likely serve as one of Ukraine’s top international figures lobbying Western powers to continue supplying the country with weapons and money, with the UK being one of the leading financial and military supporters of Kyiv on the international stage.

However, observers were quick to note that the move will effectively sideline Zaluzhny from the domestic political landscape in Ukraine, with the general being widely regarded as a chief political rival to Zelensky should elections be held once again in the war-torn country.

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a political move… For Zelensky, the motivation is to block him in the media, that he disappears from here, that he’s no longer active.”

Indeed, just days before the announcement of Zaluhzny’s appointment to the role in London, a poll conducted by the Kyiv-based firm SOCIS found that the former Commander-in-Chief holds a sizeable advantage over Zelensky in a potential presidential matchup.

According to the survey, in the first round of voting, 41 per cent of respondents said they would support Zaluzhny, compared to just 23.7 per cent who backed Zelensky, Newsweek reported.

Ukrainian electoral rules state that if no candidate secures a majority in the first round a second runoff vote is held. Under this scenario, the poll found that 67.5 per cent of voters would support Zaluzhny, with the current president only projected to secure 32.5 per cent of the vote.

While Zelensky’s first presidential term was due to end this year, the elections have been cancelled, with it being unconstitutional under Ukrainian law to hold a presidential race as the country is under martial law. Zelensky previously expressed willingness to hold elections regardless — if the United States and EU paid for them — but later walked this back, stating in November that it would be “absolutely irresponsible” to hold an election while the country is at war.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on X: or e-mail to: kzindulka@breitbart.com



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