Public turmoil from rumors about Zaluzhnyi’s dismissal – expert interview

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhnyi
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhnyi

In an interview with NV Radio on Jan. 30, Ukrainian political scientist Taras Zahorodniy analyzed the reaction of Russian propaganda and Ukrainian society to rumors of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissing Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

NV: After the entire debacle, Russian propagandist Margarita Simonyan wrote that “it doesn’t matter if Zaluzhnyi was removed or not; the chaos [in Ukraine] is good for us, and besides, it’s beautiful.” It seems to me this chaos benefited only Russian propaganda. What do you think?

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Zahorodniy: Not only propaganda. Russians always try to muddy the water in countries they don’t like. They’re trying to destabilize the situation.

In general, the Russians are quite adept in conducting such information special operations. They will hype any dispute in Ukrainian society for their own benefit. Therefore, it’s not surprising that they have such a reaction.

NV: As for the reaction in Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy didn’t mention this situation in his evening address. Why do you think he avoided the topic entirely?

Zahorodniy: The president probably doesn’t comment on events that didn’t happen. His spokesperson said within an hour that nobody was getting fired. The Defense Ministry also confirmed there were no [changes]. Because, for example, the removal of Mr. Zaluzhnyi from his post is possible after a request from the defense minister, which was also denied. I think that’s enough at this point.

NV: What do you think about the tension in Ukrainian society on this issue?

Zahorodniy: This is a problem not only of Ukrainian society, but a problem of modern society in general. The emergence of social networks has created an opportunity to actively manipulate the information space, and the question of truth and fact is quite blurred now. We can see it in the Unites States, for example. Therefore, Ukraine isn’t an exception to the general rule, and I wouldn’t say that this is a purely Ukrainian feature.

Read also: Ukraine's top general Zaluzhnyi at center of rumors after alleged removal request

A purely Ukrainian feature is to take many events emotionally. Of course, this is related to the situation in the country, because after all, Mr. Zaluzhnyi is responsible for the security of the state in people’s minds, and security is a basic human need. That’s why we had such a reaction.

Moreover, national security institutions enjoy the highest level of public trust in our country, namely 97% for the army and 71% for the SBU security service. Therefore, it’s natural that possible rotations of the army leadership cause such a heated discussion, especially since Mr. Zaluzhnyi enjoys the trust of both the public and our troops.

NV: What lesson can we draw from these events? To disregard Mariana Bezuhla (Ukrainian MP, outspoken critic of current military leadership)? Exclude her from the parliamentary Defense Committee?

Read also: Zelenskyy’s office denies sacking Zaluzhnyi

Zahorodniy: Of course, there’s no need to follow Mrs. Bezuhla in the first place. In this case, at the level of her understanding, she talks about some things that simply aren’t true. Yesterday, for example, she wrote that everyone in the General Staff seems to be alcoholics. This is already going beyond all bounds.

Unfortunately, she is a lawmaker, and the fact that she’s still a member of the [ruling] Servant of the People parliamentary party casts more of a shadow on the party itself, which still hasn’t resolved this issue. Of course, it’s impossible to remove her from parliament under current laws. But to expel her from the party... I think it’s long overdue.

Regarding other opinion leaders. The question is how you take their information. You cannot forbid a person to say whatever they want on Facebook or other platforms. We can only ask on what basis they made certain conclusions, and so on.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine