In addition to the catastrophic situation on the battlefield and the dwindling aid from the USA, a power struggle is raging in Kiev in which Zelensky and Zaluzhny are fighting for their existence and thus further weakening Ukraine.
It is obvious – things are not going as they should for Ukraine according to the wishes and desires of the Ukrainian leadership and the NATO states that dominate it. The situation on the battlefield is catastrophic. We came to the conclusion back in September that Ukraine was militarily finished.
What’s more, other geopolitical events – particularly in the Middle East – have overtaken Ukraine’s long undisputed lead in the news. The issue here is the scale of the financial and military support that the USA is able and willing to provide to Ukraine.
It is therefore not surprising that the Ukrainian president is trying with all his might to get back into the headlines, which until now have been a guarantee of getting what he demanded. Linked to this, albeit unspoken, is his hope of being able to delay or perhaps somehow avert his own demise.
Selenski’s position of power is crumbling and compared to his standing two years ago, he is a shadow of his former self, not only in his own country but also in the West. He is caught between powerful interest groups over which he has less and less influence.
In this article, we try to understand and classify the internal power struggles.
Zaluzhny disturbs and should go
The rumor mill in and around Kiev has been buzzing for about a week now. The commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, General Valery Zaluzhny, is allegedly to be replaced.
A struggle has broken out between the only two remaining centers of power in Ukraine – the president and the commander-in-chief of the army. Everyone else is rallying behind these two. Even the secret services are getting into the act, which otherwise almost always cook their own soup in such constellations, simply because they are predestined for intrigue.
If Zelensky succeeds in forcing General Zaluzhny out of office, it would be a significant power-political victory for him, at least for the time being.
Zaluzhny is competent
Zaluzhny is a competent military man. This earns him respect not only in the troops, but beyond. He has achieved what he could have achieved.
Blaming the complete failure of the counter-offensive on Zaluzhny has nothing to do with reality. Zaluzhny wanted to make a concentrated crescent cut at one point to divide the land bridge. NATO and Zelensky, on the other hand, managed to ensure that attacks were launched in five different places. This led to a fragmentation of the forces, which were not strong enough at any point to even penetrate the security zone. The ensuing bloodbath for the Ukrainians was the brutal consequence of this miscalculation. The British and American advisors in particular were blind to the realities, notwithstanding the fact that history provides ample illustrative material.
Take the example of von Manstein – his attack through the Ardennes in May 1940 brought the German Wehrmacht its greatest success precisely through the concentration of forces.
Zaluzhny seems to be respected by the people – he is possibly more popular than Zelensky.
But no one dares to officially dismiss General Zaluzhny, neither the president nor the defense minister. They tempt him with a well-paid position in Kiev and rumor has it that he is being offered an ambassadorial post somewhere in Europe if he will only give up his post of his own accord. But Zaluzhny refuses.
Kyrill Budanov – Head of the secret service with military ambitions
Cyril Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service, seems to be the obvious choice as Zaluzhny’s successor in all the speculation surrounding his replacement.
Kyrill Budanov, who is favored by President Zelensky, is a close confidant of Zelensky and supports his course without reservation. It is said that he has been granted British citizenship. We do not know whether this is really true.
Budanov is responsible for various terrorist attacks on civilians in Russia. The murder of the daughter of the Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, Darja Dugina, is also attributable to Budanov.
As Zaluzny is not leaving voluntarily and Zelensky is not dismissing him, Cyril Budanov, the protégé of His Majesty’s Secret Service, MI-6, has no choice but to put a good face on the bad game and turn down the post, at least for the time being.
On January 29, events came to a head. First came unconfirmed reports about the replacement of the head of the Ukrainian armed forces by the very same Cyril Budanov. Shortly afterwards, first the Ministry of Defense denied this news, and later, according to the Kyiv Independent, the office of the Ukrainian president.
On January 31, the all-clear was given for the time being – everyone will remain in their posts.
A reason is sought
But the struggle will continue. Time is pressing. Replacing a respected commander-in-chief in wartime is no easy task. All the more so when the situation at the front seems to be getting more difficult every day. This requires a good reason, the right occasion and, last but not least, an actual personnel alternative.
While Zelensky repeatedly calls for the Ukrainian army to go on the offensive wherever possible, Zaluzhny is trying to adapt decisions to the actual situation and strengthen the defensive without ruling out attacks.
The contradictions between President Zelensky and army chief Zaluzhny are therefore obvious and of a fundamental nature.
Budanov’s unconditional support for Zelensky’s policy is probably the real reason for the desired change. The head of the military intelligence service has been repeatedly mentioned by the media as a possible successor for weeks, but only in the last few days has it seemed to become concrete.
However, Budanov has no experience as the commander of a fighting force. He served exclusively in the secret service. History repeats itself: Heinrich Himmler was also appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Upper Rhine in November 1944. He assumed this high military position without any military experience. As is well known, this experiment ended as was to be expected – he failed.
The shooting down of the Russian plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners reshuffles the cards
Finding a reason to replace a man who is clearly more respected in the force than Selenski is associated with risks. A replacement without a concrete reason is even more difficult to explain. Especially when Zaluzhny has been repeatedly mentioned as an alternative for the post of president for months, particularly from the US side.
On January 24, 2023, a Russian IL-76 tramp plane with 65 Ukrainian prisoners on board was shot down, as we reported. There is every indication that the plane was shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. Evidence of this will probably find its way into the public domain in the next few days.
According to Russian sources, which have so far been kept quiet in the West, Russian forensics have found clear evidence that the Russian IL-76 was shot down with American Patriot missiles.
The Russian parliament is now preparing a statement to the US Congress based on the available evidence. So far there has been no reaction to this in the Western media either.
It will be interesting to see whether Zelensky will continue to stand by his vociferous call for an international investigation into the events immediately after the launch. In the meantime, this demand has become very, very quiet.
Regardless of who on the Ukrainian side is actually responsible for the downing – every possible variant puts President Zelensky under enormous pressure.
This is because the responsibility for the Ukrainian air defense falls within Zaluzhny’s area of responsibility. However, the execution of the mission smacks of the secret service and therefore of Budanov.
In addition, both centers of power apparently had the real possibility – whether through Ukrainian resources or with the support of NATO or intelligence services – to intervene in the patriot systems.
Selenski will have to make a decision. And it could be that, whatever decision he makes, he merely hastens his demise.
Replacing him with the inexperienced Budanov could weaken the force as a whole and end up turning it far more against Selenski than it already is.
A “business as usual” with Zelensky, Zaluzhny and Budanov in their current positions is likely to deepen the contradictions between Zelensky and Zaluzhny – with an equally uncertain outcome, especially for Zelensky. Even the German mainstream media are no longer keeping quiet about this.
However, the tug-of-war over Budanov and Zaluzhny also highlights the contradictions among the powers supporting Ukraine: while Budanov, as an intelligence officer and confidant of Zelensky, is a child of the British MI-6 in particular, Zaluzhny is hardly surprisingly and now almost openly supported by the Pentagon.
Should Zaluzhny lose his post and switch to politics, he is seen – as the Washington Post wrote weeks ago – as a considerable danger to Selenski.
The overall picture is looking more and more like an agony, i.e. a hopeless situation of suffering.