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Totally unknown to his compatriots when he was appointed head of the Ukrainian Army a year ago, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi has become an icon of the resistance to the Russian invasion.
The 49th This martial-looking man's birthday in July even became in a collective declaration of love, with Ukrainians flooding social media with praise for the commander of their armed forces.
Children now mention his name in their games and the national edition of the fashion magazine 'Vogue' even dedicated I gave this “legendary figure” an item.
“Thanks to Commander-in-Chief Zaluzhnyi, our confidence in ourselves and our victory has returned” , said former Minister of Transport Volodymyr Omelian on Facebook.
Great confidence of citizens in the Army
Ukrainians attribute Valerii Zaluzhnyi the Failure of Russia's initial plan to topple kyivat the beginning of their offensive launched on February 24.
The fierce resistance of the Ukrainian troops led to to Moscow to withdraw his forces from the outskirts of kyiv to concentrate in the East. This decline has led to a record level (97% according to polls) of Ukrainians' trust in the Army, embodied by Zaluzhnyi.
“It is not trust in a personality but in the armed forces“, estimated with AFP the deputy Serguiû Rakhmanine, member of the Defense commission.
US Time magazine named azaluzhny as one of the 100 most influential people in the world this year. or, together with the Ukrainian president Zelenski.
“Valéry Zaloujny has becomethe military spirit that his country needed“wrote the chief of the US General Staff, Mark Milley, assuring that “it will happen.” to history.”
New military elite
Despite the fact that he has not given any interviews since the beginning of the Russian invasion, that hasn't stopped the Ukrainian press from completely winning over the man they dubbed the “iron general”.
Russian plans for “Blitzkrieg, changing the power and geopolitical direction of Ukraine have been ruined,” he wrote. Zaluzhny on Facebook two weeks after the invasion began. “No matter how difficult it is for us, (this war) will certainly not be an embarrassment.”
For the analyst of the Ukrainian center Democracy House Anatoly Oktysiouk, Zaluzhnyi < /strong> is “competent and doesn't have this old Soviet mentality” typical of the Ukrainian general staff. “He is a patriot, he is not corruptand he has received a good education, especially in the West”, he points out.
Valerii Zaluzhnyi on July 8, 1973 at a Soviet military garrison in Novograd-Volynsky, in northwestern Ukraine.
He follows a typical officer career with 24 years of military service under his belt, serving in everything from platoon commander to leading military operations against pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow. in the east, as of 2014.
Appointed head of the Northern Command of Ground Troops in 2019, he was promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by President Zelensky in July 2021.
The general then has as a priority the reform of the Army to move away from the Soviet military traditions and approach the NATO standards,< /strong>the alliance Ukraine intends to join, much to the chagrin of its Russian neighbor.
Emphasizing the key role of a young generation of officers with combat experience against separatists in the east, the Ukrainian military command to “use all means” to “preserve the life and health” of its soldiers.
A few months after his appointment, he noticed on Moscow's “threat of major aggression”; in one of his rare interviews. “We must prepare for it,” he prophesied. This father of two daughters, including a military one.
His dazzling popularity has even earned him, according to several media outlets, the jealousy of the president's entourage , even if Zaluzhnyi has never expressed political ambitions and his pronouncement remains very limited.
In early July, Zelensky criticized Zaluzhnyi. for the first time a decision of the Army , which had announced restrictions on the movement of reservists between regions.
However, immediately minimized & oacute; The impact of this criticism, assuring that it was “a detail, nothing at all”.
“There are no misunderstandings between the staff and me” of the Army, assured the president again on Wednesday. “We are showing great unity in the face of the Russian threat.”