Totally unknown to his compatriots when he was appointed head of the ukrainian army a year ago, the general Valerii Zaluzhnyi has become an icon of resistance to the Russian invasion.
This martial-looking man’s 49th birthday in July even became a collective declaration of lovewith Ukrainians flooding social media with praise for the commander of their armed forces.
Kids now mention her name in their games and the national edition of fashion magazine ‘Vogue’ even dedicated an article to this “legendary figure”.
“Thanks to Commander in Chief Zaluzhnyiour confidence in ourselves and in our victory has returned,” former Transport Minister Volodymyr Omelian said on Facebook.
Great confidence of citizens in the Army
Ukrainians attribute to Valerii Zaluzhnyi the failure of Russia’s initial plan to bring down kyiv at the beginning of its offensive launched on February 24.
The fierce resistance of the Ukrainian troops led Moscow to withdraw its forces from the vicinity of kyiv to concentrate in the East. This decline has led to a record level (97% according to polls) the confidence of the Ukrainians in the Army, embodied by Zaluzhnyi.
“It is not a confidence in a personality but in the armed forces“, estimated with AFP the deputy Serguiï Rakhmanine, member of the Defense commission.
US Time magazine named Azaluzhny one of the 100 most influential people in the world this year, along with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
“Valéry Zaloujny has become in the military spirit that his country needed“, wrote the chief of the American General Staff, Mark Milley, assuring that “it will go down in history”.
new military elite
Although he has not given no interview since the beginning of the Russian invasionthat hasn’t stopped the Ukrainian press from completely winning over the cause of the man they dubbed the “iron general”.
Russian plans for “Blitzkrieg, changing the power and geopolitical direction of Ukraine have been ruined,” Zaluzhny wrote on Facebook two weeks after the invasion began. “No matter how difficult it is for us, (this war) will certainly not be an embarrassment.”
For the analyst of the Ukrainian center Democracy House Anatoly Oktysiouk, Zaluzhnyi is “competent and does not have this old Soviet mentality” typical of the Ukrainian general staff. “He’s a patriot it is not corrupt and has received a good education, especially in the West,” he says.
valeryi Zaluzhnyi born July 8, 1973 in a Soviet military garrison in Novograd-Volynsky, in northwestern Ukraine.
He follows a typical officer career with 24 years of military service under his belt, serving in everything from platoon commander to leading military operations against Moscow-backed pro-Russian separatists in the east, as of 2014.
Appointed head of the Northern Command of Ground Troops in 2019, he was promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by President Zelensky in July 2021.
The general then has as a priority the Army reform to move away from Soviet military traditions and approach the NATO Standards, the alliance that Ukraine intends to join, much to the chagrin of its Russian neighbor.
Emphasizing the key role of a young generation of officers with combat experience against separatists in the east, he urged the Ukrainian military command to “use all means” to “preserve the life and health” of their soldiers.
A few months after his appointment, he warned of the “threat of great aggression” from Moscow in one of his rare interviews. “We must prepare for it,” prophesied this father of two daughters, including a military.
Their dazzling popularity It has even earned him, according to various media, the jealousy of the president’s entourageeven if Zaluzhnyi he has never expressed political ambitions and his pronouncement remains very limited.
In early July, Zelensky criticized for the first time a decision of his Armywhich had announced restrictions on the movement of reservists between regions.
However, he immediately minimized the impact of this criticism, assuring that it was “a detail, nothing at all.”
“There are no misunderstandings between me and the personnel” of the Army, the president assured again on Wednesday. “We are showing a great unit against the Russian threat“.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.