The first rumors of a feud and Zaluzhny’s possible ousting began circulating at the end of 2022, when media reported Zelenskyy was mulling replacing Zaluzhny with Ukraine’s Land Forces commander Oleksandr Syrsky, seen as more friendly to the president.
Zelenskyy also sees General Zaluzhny as a potential political rival.
Although presidential elections have been delayed due to the war, Zaluzhny is something of a folk hero in Ukraine — which could translate into electoral power.
“So far, Zaluzhny has not decided to enter politics, but he is considering this option, and the president’s office is afraid,” the person familiar with the talks said.
A December poll found that public trust in Zelenskyy is sagging, down to 62 percent compared to 84 percent a year earlier — although he’s still the top-ranked politician in Ukraine. Meanwhile, among public figures, Zaluzhny was trusted by 88 percent of those polled this past December.
Another poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found that Zaluzhny was the most trusted of Ukraine’s senior commanders.
The prospect of tensions at the top as Ukraine fights an existential war is dismaying Ukrainians. More than 70 percent would react negatively if Zelenskyy fires Zaluzhny, the poll found.
Matt Berg reported from Washington and Veronika Melkozerova from Kyiv.