Zelensky Appoints Fired Defense Chief As New Ambassador To UK

Ukraine has announced that its fired defense chief, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhny, has been appointed to what's widely considered one of the country's most important diplomatic positions - he is now the new ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Zaluzhny, while enjoying widespread popularity within military ranks, was controversially removed by President Zelensky in February amid a broader shake-up in miliary and government leadership, at a moment Ukraine forces have been in retreat, outmanned and outgunned by superior Russian forces.

Zelensky had said at the time he needed men who are "convinced of victory" against Russia. Zaluzhny had attracted controversy after several interviews with Western press wherein the top general gave a realistic, and thus negative, assessment of the battlefield situation. 

General, and now ambassador, Valerii Zaluzhny. via Reuters

For example back in November Gen. Zaluzhny riled the Zelensky administration and external allies by being the first top official to paint a very negative and grim picture of how Ukraine's military was fairing on the battlefield.

He made the remarks to The Economist and the admission quickly caught the eye of other major publications, most notably The New York Times, which underscored at the time, "His comments marked the first time a top Ukrainian commander said the fighting had reached an impasse...".

Zaluzhny was replaced by Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, seen as more loyal and willing to keep his mouth shut, and with a reputation for being willing to sacrificing troops no matter how impossible the task set before him.

Zelensky in making the announcement of Zaluzhny's reappointment on Thursday stated that the general "told me this is the direction he would like to take — diplomacy." Zelensky added that this means "Our alliance with Britain should only strengthen."

There has been widespread speculation that the Ukrainian president needed to give Zaluzhny an important, highly visible post in government in order to appease far-right loyalists of the former defense chief - perhaps on fears there could have been attempts at mutiny and unrest within military ranks.

Ukraine has for months also struggled with the question of how to tap more manpower. Military recruiters are extremely unpopular and a new broader mass mobilization drive would likely spark unrest in the streets.

Families are worried over their men being recruited and sent to the front lines, which many view as essentially a death sentence. In some cases violence has broken out when military recruiters visit towns and villages already depleted of able-bodied men.

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