Former army chief general valeriy zaluzhnyi named “hero of Ukraine” following leadership change.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has conferred the title of “Hero of Ukraine” upon former army chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, a day after his replacement in a significant restructuring amid the ongoing conflict with Russia. Zaluzhnyi, a well-regarded figure overseeing Ukraine’s war efforts during the Russian invasion, was replaced by Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi in what is considered the largest shakeup in the war to date.

The decision to award Ukraine’s highest state honor to Zaluzhnyi signifies an attempt by Zelenskiy’s administration to convey unity and respect for the former army chief despite his removal from the position. This announcement was made through a presidential decree on the official website.

Zaluzhnyi, known for commanding a significant share of public trust, has received support from the Ukrainian populace, as indicated by polls. While concrete data on the public response to his removal is yet to emerge, his sacking has prompted open questioning on social media.

The military reshuffling follows months of speculation about a potential rift between Ukraine’s key wartime figures regarding their strategies for the ongoing conflict with Russia, which is entering its third year. President Zelenskiy, while announcing the changes, asserted that the move was not politically motivated but rather a necessary renewal in the armed forces, especially after setbacks in Ukraine’s ground operations in 2023.

Despite a counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops last summer, they faced challenges in breaking through heavily fortified Russian lines. Delays in crucial U.S. military aid, due to opposition from Republican lawmakers, have further complicated Ukraine’s efforts in the conflict.