Valery Zalozhny: Ukraine appoints the former army commander as ambassador to the United Kingdom

  • By James Waterhouse, Ukraine correspondent, and Johanna Chisholm
  • BBC News in Kiev and London

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Valery Zalozny was removed last month from his post as Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The former head of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is set to be appointed his country's ambassador to the UK.

The Ukrainian general has been leading the war effort since 2022.

He was seen as a potential political rival to Zelensky and was very popular among soldiers.

Ukraine has not had an ambassador to the UK since Zelensky sacked former envoy Vadym Prystayko in July 2023 after he publicly criticized the president.

The Foreign Office said a request had been sent to the UK to finalize General Zaloznyy's move.

In announcing his appointment, Zelensky claimed that General Zalozny told him that diplomacy “is the direction he would like to take.”

He was replaced last month by hardline General Oleksandr Sirsky, whom Zelensky described at the time of his appointment as having both offensive and defensive experience.

The decision to dismiss General Zalozny came at a time when the career soldier had higher approval ratings than Zelensky himself, sparking speculation of a rift between the two men.

It is unclear whether this new appointment is a reward for Zaloznyi's previous service, or some political gamesmanship. It is worth noting that the former army commander has no diplomatic experience.

However, a lack of experience didn't exactly hold Zelensky back when he was elected president in 2019 after spending the lion's share of his career as a comedian.

In Ukraine, politics may be less about the parties and their statements than about the leader and his charisma.

There are still some formal approvals to be done, but the BBC has learned that General Zalozny has accepted his new position as UK ambassador. This means he is likely to be based in the capital of Ukraine's friendly ally, while representing its leader's agenda.

Crucially, it also means that he will not divert support away from the president at home, where his boss is trying to balance mobilizing thousands of men while also protecting the Ukrainian economy. This requires a united front.

The Ukrainian leader had said at the time of General Zalozny's dismissal that leadership within the military ranks needed to be “renewed,” but added that the beloved general could “stay on the team.”

Meanwhile, the UK announced on Thursday that it would supply Ukraine with more than 10,000 drones in a deal worth £125 million ($160 million).

This is in addition to the £200 million pledged earlier this year for drones as part of a larger military aid package.

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps, who made the announcement during his visit to Kiev, also urged the UK's allies to increase their arms supplies.

Ukraine has recently faced a variety of setbacks in its attempt to expel Russia from its territory after more than two years of conflict.

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