AFP / NOSKlytsjko (L), Zelensky (M) en Zaloezjny (R)
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 18:27
Unity in the Ukrainian political leadership is under pressure. Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klychko accuses President Zelensky of authoritarian behavior. Meanwhile, there are signs of a growing conflict between Zelensky and Armed Forces Commander Valery Zaluzhny. According to the well-informed Ukraine Pravda, Zelensky is considering replacing the general.
The tensions come at a difficult time for Ukraine. The counter-offensive has not gotten off the ground sufficiently, while Western support is drying up and the country is preparing for a tough winter. “When things go well, you maintain unity. But when things go wrong, like now, the question of guilt is on the table,” says Ukraine expert Bob Deen of the Clingendael Institute.
To maintain unity and not play into Russia’s hands, politics was more or less on hold in Ukraine, says Deen. “That seems to be changing now.” Political journalist Timoer Savin of the Ukrainian weekly Focus speaks of “the most opportune moment for a political settlement”. “It is difficult for Zelensky, because he is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the war.”
The conflict started a month ago. In an op-ed in The Economist, Zaluzhny said the war has reached a stalemate. This was immediately publicly contradicted by Zelensky, who then called on military leaders “not to interfere in politics”. Ukrainian and Western media subsequently noted that the team around Zelensky sees a serious political competitor in Zaluzhny.
Zelensky’s advisors argue that there is no conflict, and internal tensions are mainly increased by Russia. But the cracks are becoming more and more visible. For example, a party colleague of Zelensky said that Zaluzhny has no clear plan for next year. She also openly called on him to resign. Ukrainian media report that Zelensky bypasses Zaluzhny and speaks directly to junior officers. And recently several officers were dismissed from the circle around Zaluzhny.
It is logical that there are differences of opinion, says Deen. “After all, they have different goals. Zaluzhny knows that this war is a long-term process and wants to limit military losses, while Zelensky is more focused on short-term success, including to gain the support of the West and the Ukrainian people.” retain.”
Hard swipe from Klychko
Zaluzhny is Ukraine’s second most popular person, political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told NBC News. This makes him a threat to Zelensky, the analyst said. “It seems that they are trying to blame the problems at the front on him. Removing him would be a far-reaching step that could also weaken Zelensky.”
A poll showed this weekend that Zelensky’s popularity is declining, while Zaluzhny’s remains stable. If the general were to run for the highest office, there would even be a neck-and-neck race, Pravda reports based on an unpublished poll.
AFP Security Chief Danilov (L), President Zelensky (M) and General Zaluzhny (R) in better times: on the birthday of the Commander of the Armed Forces.
General Zaluzhny can count on a lot of support, including from the influential mayor of Kyiv, Vitaly Klychko. This weekend he lashed out at his political opponent Zelensky in two interviews. He told Der Spiegel that democracy is in danger. “The country is becoming increasingly authoritarian, comparable to Russia, where everything depends on the whims of one person.”
Speaking to Swiss TV, he accused Zelensky of lying. He says he is not surprised that Zelensky’s popularity is declining: “He is paying for the mistakes he made.” According to him, Zaluzhny does face the truth: “The war has reached an impasse, but some people do not want to hear the truth (…) and have wrongly criticized Zaluzhny.”
It is known that Zelensky and Klychko are not friends. The two have not even spoken to each other since the start of the war, Klychko reveals in the Spiegel interview. And yet there are only hundreds of meters between the offices of the president and the mayor of Kyiv.
Klychko’s statement may be related to the Ukrainian parliamentary and presidential elections, which are officially scheduled for 2024. Zelensky was initially open to elections, but now states that the war makes elections impossible. All parliamentary factions have also agreed not to hold elections until after the end of the war.
“Zelensky could still decide to hold elections to get a new mandate before his popularity declines further,” Deen says. “That is why Klychko, and also former President Poroshenko, are now trying to position themselves.” Both politicians are also visibly trying to tie themselves to the army, which is very popular with voters, according to Deen.
According to journalist Savin, Ukrainian voters have no interest in the political games taking place in Kyiv. Soldiers at the front in particular are annoyed by these arguments, he says. “If you are constantly under fire in a trench, it is painful to see how they interact with each other in Kyiv.”