RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Autor)
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has replaced the head of Ukraine's armed forces -- a move that comes as Kyiv presses for deeper NATO ties while its seven-year war against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine grinds on.
Presidential spokesman Serhiy Nikiforov said on July 27 that General Ruslan Khomchak will be replaced by General Valery Zaluzhny as the commander of some 250,000 active Ukrainian troops.
Nikiforov said it was Zelenskiy's decision to sack Khomchak. He suggested the dismissal was an effort to stem infighting between Ukraine's armed forces and the Defense Ministry.
"Volodymyr Zelenskiy has no doubts about Ruslan Khomchak's patriotism, loyalty to his oath, and professionalism," Nikiforov said. "But the president wants to see a synergy between the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Unfortunately, we do not see such synergy. We see, on the contrary, conflicts."
Zaluzhny previously headed the Ukrainian northern command.
Fighting between Ukrainian armed forces and the Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 13,200 people in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions since April 2014.
Zelenskiy has urged NATO to issue a clear "yes" or "no" on a detailed plan for Ukrainian membership in the transatlantic alliance. Moscow recently described Ukrainian membership in NATO as "a red line."
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration said last week that Zelenskiy would make his long-awaited first official visit to Washington on August 30 when Congress is on summer recess.
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers responded by calling on the Biden administration to reschedule the visit to allow Congress an opportunity to meet with Zelenskiy, saying the White House appeared to be "play[ing] politics."
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