January 29, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Rumors fly about Ukrainian Commander in Chief stepping down

Institute for the Study of War

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) denied rumors about the purported resignation or dismissal of Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi on January 29. Ukrainian People’s Deputy Oleksii Honcharenko claimed on January 29 that “Zaluzhnyi announced his resignation, but there is no decree yet.” Former Ukrainian People’s Deputy Boryslav Bereza claimed that the Ukrainian Presidential Office “dismissed” Zaluzhnyi. Western media amplified Honcharenko’s and Bereza’s posts, and Russian sources and state media outlets also picked up claims of Zaluzhnyi’s dismissal or resignation. The Ukrainian MoD apparently responded to the rumors by saying “no, this is not true,” but has not yet offered additional information on the situation as of the time of this writing. ISW cannot independently confirm rumors about Zaluzhnyi‘s dismissal or resignation at this time. Russian sources are seizing on rumors of Zaluzhnyi’s dismissal or resignation to further several information operations about domestic Ukrainian affairs they have been conducting for some time. Veteran Russian propagandist and RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan emphasized that whether or not reports of Zaluzhnyi’s removal are true, “chaos … is useful to [Russia].”

Russia may be retooling aspects of its air defense umbrella in deep rear areas amid continued Ukrainian drone strikes within Russia. Russian outlet Kommersant reported on January 29 that the Russian Ministry of Digital Development ordered Russian authorities in Leningrad, Novgorod, and Pskov oblasts to block 4G LTE internet connection until January 30 so that Russian officials can “fine-tune” anti-drone and air defense systems. Leningrad, Novgorod, and Pskov oblasts previously announced disruptions to 4G LTE internet services from January 25 to January 30 in connection with technical adjustments to the “radio frequency spectrum.” One of Kommersant’s sources stated that Voronezh Oblast is conducting similar efforts that have been “planned at the federal level” and that many other unspecified Russian federal subjects are pursuing these efforts at different paces.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) denied rumors about the purported resignation or dismissal of Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi on January 29.
  • Russia may be retooling aspects of its air defense umbrella in deep rear areas amid continued Ukrainian drone strikes within Russia.
  • Russia appears to be fueling and seizing on neo-imperialist and nationalist sentiments in Europe in order to drive wedges between Ukraine and its western neighbors.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a series of economic and technological agreements on January 29 advancing the Kremlin’s efforts to further integrate Belarus into the Union State structure.
  • Russian forces recently advanced near Kreminna and Avdiivka and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area.
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