Zaluzhny Snapshot With Banderite Poses Threat to Zelensky
23:20 GMT 10.02.2024 (Updated: 06:34 GMT 12.02.2024)
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired the top General for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhny, after weeks of speculation and conflicting reports.
The weekend before, after media outlets reported on his imminent firing but before it became official, the Ukrainian commander of the 67th Mechanized Brigade Andriy Stempitsky posted an image of himself smiling next to Zaluzhny with a portrait of former Nazi Stepan Bandera and a red and black Banderaite flag.
Mark Sleboda, an international relations and security analyst told Sputnik’s Fault Lines on Friday that the image was an “explicit threat against Zelensky.”
“We saw Zaluzhny pose over [the] last weekend for a photo with a commander of the Right Sector*, the Banderite fascist, neo-Nazi battalion that is now an official part of the military,” Sleboda recounted. “In front of his giant portrait of Stepan Bandera, the West Ukrainian genocidal Nazi collaborator [...] and next to a red and black Banderite flag with the inscription 'victory without negotiations.' So, I saw that as a pretty explicit threat against Zelensky.”
Sleboda noted unconfirmed reports that the Ukrainian intelligence agencies were given orders to watch for soldiers leaving the front but also noted that any potential unrest depends largely on Zaluzhny’s next move.
“Does he do anything to incite this? Does he maneuver behind the scenes with other political figures against Zelensky? Does he stay quiet and actually put the interest of the regime above his personal ego for the time being?” Sleboda asked. “I don't know about that because he refused to resign and decided to make, obviously, a political issue out of this,” he concluded, referring to Zaluzhny’s reported refusal to resign.
March 15, will be a date to watch, Sleboda said. March 15 is when Zelensky’s current presidential term should end but likely won’t because of a martial law declaration that has been in place in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s special military operation, but Sleboda thinks forces in Ukraine may use that date to make a move against the president.
“There may be political forces unhappy with Zelensky within the regime that will use that as the point to say that he is not a legitimate leader after that and seek to seize control,” Sleboda speculated.
Sleboda also explained that he does not believe Zaluzhny’s dismissal was based on bad strategy but for personal reasons. “This was all personal,” Sleboda explained. “He made mistakes, there’s no question there but most [...] on both sides, seem to regard Zaluzhny as more intelligent, more competent and more, shall we say, [an] out of the box thinker than [Zaluzhny’s replacement General Oleksandr] Syrsky.”
Earlier in the interview, Sleboda explained that while Zaluzhny was respected by his troops and liked by the civilian population, Syrsky evokes the opposite reaction.
“He was the commander of the ground forces, he was responsible for the unsuccessful defenses of [Artemovsk] and [...] Soledar,” Sleboda explained.
“They call him General Butcher and General 200 (ed. note: 'Cargo 200' - military slang used in the Soviet and post-Soviet states referring to the transportation of the deceased soldiers) and neither one of those are favorable,” Sleboda continued. “It is in reference to his seemingly casual way of throwing away the lives of his own men.”
Despite his Russian background, Syrsky was picked because of his loyalty to Zelensky, Sleboda explained. He also speculated that Syrsky would be more willing to commit reinforcements to Avdeyevka than Zaluzhny was, just like Syrsky did in the failed defense of Artemovsk.
“This is evidently where we’re going, and General Butcher [...] is going to be throwing more Kiev regime lives away,” he predicted.
*The Right Sector is an extremist organization banned in Russia.