Zelensky appoints Gen. Valery Zaluzhny as Ukraine’s next U.K. ambassador

Kyiv – President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday appointed his former military chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, as Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain – another step outside the military for Zaluzhny, a month after he was replaced.

Zaluzhny was offered the position last month but did not immediately accept it, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The appointment will be seen as a resolution between Zelensky and Zaluzhny after reports that their relationship was tense, partly because Zelensky was suspicious of Zaluzhny’s political ambitions. Zaluzhny, 50, remains extremely popular in Ukraine and competes with the president, and the move keeps him in an influential role, but as a diplomat outside the country.

Zaluzhny “told me that this is the direction he would like to take – diplomacy,” Zelensky said in a message on the social media app Telegram. “Our alliance with Britain should only grow stronger.”

Ukraine’s ambassadorship to Britain – a crucial post as London has played a leading role in the supply of weapons to Ukraine – has been vacant since July, when Zelensky ousted Vadym Prystaiko. Prystaiko, a veteran diplomat, had criticized Zelensky’s “unhealthy sarcasm” during a television appearance.

Zaluzhny’s role as commander-in-chief involved some diplomacy; he often lobbied his foreign military counterparts directly for more weapons so that they could convince their governments. He will likely do something similar in London, but after two years of leading Ukraine’s war effort, Zaluzhny will be given a civilian post and excluded from any battlefield decision-making.

Zaluzhny was fired last month and replaced by Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky, who had been commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, partly because Zelensky believed new leadership could rejuvenate the military after fighting had reached a stalemate over the past year. But the move was unpopular with ordinary soldiers, many of whom respected Zaluzhny.

Syrsky has had a difficult first month on the job, as he ordered troops to withdraw from the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka three weeks ago. Ukraine is also facing a shortage of ammunition as a $60 billion security aid package from the United States has stalled in Congress.

Amid the uncertainty in Washington, the importance of securing British support has increased. Although Britain supplies less equipment than Washington, it has often taken the lead in determining the types of weapons it approves. For example, Britain sent Kyiv long-range missiles and its Storm Shadow cruise missiles, while the Biden administration continued to deny Kyiv its Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has escalated his rhetoric in recent days about the West’s responsibility to help Ukraine defeat Russia.

On Thursday, he met in Paris with party leaders from parliament, who said Macron reaffirmed his position that there should be “no limits” to support for Ukraine.

His comments followed an announcement late last month that France currently has “no consensus” on sending ground troops to Ukraine, but that “nothing should be ruled out.”

When he visited Prague on Tuesday, he called on Ukraine’s allies not to be “cowards.”

Fabien Roussel, leader of the French Communist Party, summarized Thursday’s meeting for reporters, saying that Macron told those present that “there should be no more limits, according to his analysis, to the intervention of France or that of the countries of the EU” when it comes to support Ukraine.

The statement, Roussel claimed, suggests that France no longer believes in the power of diplomacy or politics to stop the war. This represents a shift in position, he said, from two years ago, when there were “red lines.”

Macron’s comments show that “tomorrow he is prepared to participate in an escalation of the war that could become very dangerous,” Roussel said.

Marine Tondelier of the French Greens said it is “extremely worrying” to see the French president saying, when referring to a war involving a nuclear-armed leader, “that we must show that we know no borders.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state television on Thursday that Macron “continues to increase the level of France’s direct involvement in this war.”

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