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'Iron General' of Ukraine's resistance: Valerii Zaluzhnyi and his main statements on war

'Iron General' of Ukraine's resistance: Valerii Zaluzhnyi and his main statements on war Photo: Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi (Getty Images)

Valerii Zaluzhnyi was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine before the beginning of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation, and since February 24, 2022, he has been one of the key military figures in the world. Zaluzhnyi's name has become a symbol of resistance and courage, so in the West, he was called the 'Iron General'.

RBC-Ukraine collected facts from the military leader's biography and his statements about the war.

When preparing the material, information from the portal of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Wikipedia, Valerii Zaluzhnyi's Facebook page, and materials from The Economist, The Washington Post, Politico, and Time were used.

A childhood dream that became a reality

Valery Fyodorovych Zaluzhnyi was born into a military family, and his entire childhood was spent among people in uniform. As the general himself said, he started thinking about the military future at an early age.

Zaluzhnyi received his school education in his hometown - Novohrad-Volynskyi in the Zhytomyr region (now Zviahel). After graduation, he studied at a Machine-Building Technical School.

Then he served and got an education in military institutions.

Excellent student and Doctor of Philosophy

In 1997, Zaluzhnyi graduated from the general military faculty of the Odesa Institute of Land Forces with honors.

In 2007, he obtained a second higher education at the National Defense Academy of Ukraine. He received a gold medal for studying the combat use of mechanized and tank units.

In 2014, Zaluzhny graduated from Ivan Cherniakhovskyi National Defense University of Ukraine with distinction. In addition, he was awarded the transitional sword of the Queen of Great Britain - as the best graduate of the operational-strategic level.

In 2020, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces received a civilian master's degree in international relations from the Ostroh Academy.

Already during the war, Valerii Zaluzhnyi defended his doctoral thesis at the Odesa Law Academy and obtained the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Although the topic of the dissertation is classified, it is known that the scientific work is related to military discipline, disciplinary offenses, and penalties.

'Iron General' of Ukraine's resistance: Valerii Zaluzhnyi and his main statements on war

Photo: Zaluznyj has several higher educations in the military field (

Military without Soviet experience

Zaluzhnyi began his path in the military field when Ukraine was already independent, unlike a large number of Ukrainian military leaders who served under the USSR.

Zaluzhnyi passed all stages of his military career. After graduating from the school in Odesa, he was appointed chief of staff and first deputy of the 24th separate mechanized brigade in Yavoriv, the Lviv region.

From 2009 to 2012, he commanded the 51st separate mechanized brigade.

In 2017, he received the rank of major general.

Zaluzhnyi has experience serving in command positions in all operational commands of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine :

  • Operational Command East (OC East) - head of the combat training department - deputy commander of the troops for combat training (2015-2016);
  • Operational Command East (OC South) - deputy commander of troops (2016-2017);
  • Operational Command East (OC West) - chief of staff - first deputy commander (2017-2018);
  • Operational Command East (OC North) - commander of troops (2019-2021).

In 2021, Valerii Zaluzhnyi was appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He succeeded Colonel General Ruslan Khomchak.

On March 4, 2022, by presidential decree, he was awarded the rank of General of the Armed Forces (highest military rank).

At war since 2014

Zaluzhnyi has been at war with Russia since 2014. In July, he was appointed as deputy commander of sector C in the Donetsk region.

He led almost all military formations created in Donbas. In 2018-2019, he was the first deputy commander of the United Forces - chief of staff of the Armed Forces.

Zaluzhnyi commanded a battalion in the battles near Debaltseve. During his tenure, the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated the village of Pivdenne near Horlivka controlled by the Russian occupiers, and advanced near Volnovakha.

After receiving the rank of major general in 2017, he was in no hurry to transfer to staff positions and continued his work, in particular, on the front lines.

'Iron General' of Ukraine's resistance: Valerii Zaluzhnyi and his main statements on war

Photo: Zaluzhnyi is a supporter of NATO standards (

Innovator in army

Zaluzhnyi is a supporter of NATO standards, therefore, after being appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, he stated that his goal is the transformation of the Ukrainian armed forces.

"The general course of reforming the Armed Forces in accordance with the principles and standards of NATO remains irreversible. And the key here is the principles. Changes must take place, first of all, in the outlook and attitude towards people. I would like you to turn your face to the people, your subordinates. My attitude towards people has not changed throughout my service," said Zaluzhnyi.

In the West, they wrote about Zaluzhnyi that the general is the personification of a new generation of Ukrainian officers, which was formed during the 8-year war in Donbas and NATO exercises. The Armed Forces managed to change the authoritarian essence that was formed by the Soviet military union.

The military leader always advocated modern approaches in combat training. Thus, as the commander of the North OC, Zaluzhnyi said that reports near the map and writing combat orders had already outlived themselves.

Resonant statements of Zaluzhnyi about the war

Zaluzhnyi's few interviews and statements always become an event in the information space.

The general spoke about the danger of full-scale Russian aggression as early as 2021. "The threat of full-scale aggression exists, was, and will continue to be. Our task as the Armed Forces is not to wait for manna from heaven, we have to prepare for it. And we do everything for this," Zaluzhnyi said in the summer of 2021.

Already after the beginning of the aggression of the Russian Federation in February 2022, the military commander in an interview with Time talked about the preparation for the invasion of Russian troops, and how he decided to move equipment to confuse the enemy.

"I was afraid that we would lose the element of surprise. We needed the enemy to think that we are all deployed at our usual bases, smoking weed, watching TV and writing posts on Facebook," Zaluzhnyi noted.

He told The Economist at the end of 2022 that the experience of previous years had prepared Ukraine for a full-scale invasion.

"And the most important experience we had and which we practice almost like a religion is that Russians and any other enemies must be killed. Only killed. And not be afraid, most importantly, to do it. And that's what we do, " the Commander-in-Chief emphasized.

On the anniversary of the full-scale aggression of the Russian Federation, Zaluzhnyi talked about his vision of the future victory.

"Our victory is, unequivocally, the liberation of the entire occupied territory of Ukraine. The entire territory must be liberated. But this is not enough. Ukraine as a state must do everything to ensure that everything that started on February 24, 2022, never happens again," the general said.

He added that for this it is necessary to have an ultra-modern and combat-capable army, which will repel Russia's desire to attack again.

'Iron General' of Ukraine's resistance: Valerii Zaluzhnyi and his main statements on war

Photo: Zaluzhnyi calls on partners to provide increased military support (

In communication with foreign media, the general has repeatedly emphasized that he knows how to defeat Russia, but he needs tanks, artillery armored vehicles, and Western-style aircraft.

Also, Zaluzhnyi did not hide that he was annoyed by statements about a slow counteroffensive. In a summer interview with The Washington Post, he said that war is not a show, and without a full supply of the necessary weapons, success on the battlefield is impossible.

In December 2023, The Economist published an article by Zaluzhnyi, in which he noted the beginning of a new war stage - "positional", which is characterized by grueling battles. In his opinion, this can benefit Russia, but there is a way out of the situation – innovative approaches can turn a "positional" war into a "maneuverable" one.

"Positional warfare is a protracted war that carries huge risks for the Ukrainian armed forces and the state. If Ukraine wants to get out of this trap, we will need all these things: air superiority, significantly improved means of radio-electronic and counter-battery warfare, new mining technologies, and the ability to mobilize and train more reserves," Zaluzhnyi stated.

Interesting facts about Zaluzhnyi

In the West, Valery Zaluzhnyi is known as the 'Iron General'. That's how he was called in the Politico article. The article states that the military commander is "a commander who will become a legendary figure in the history of Ukraine", as the successes of the Ukrainian army surprised the whole world.

'Iron General' of Ukraine's resistance: Valerii Zaluzhnyi and his main statements on war

Photo: Time magazine cover with Valery Zaluzhny (

On September 26, 2022, Time magazine placed a portrait of the main Ukrainian military officer on the cover. As the publication wrote, the Ukrainian army would hardly have achieved such success without its commander. Zaluzhnyi became the first Ukrainian military man to appear on the front page of Time.

In 2023, Zaluzhnyi received an inheritance - a U.S. citizen of Ukrainian origin, Gregory Stepanets, left him 1 million dollars. The general decided to donate the unexpectedly received money to the needs of the Armed Forces.

For Ukrainians, Valerii Zaluzhnyi became a model of stability and courage from the beginning of the war. Streets in Pokrov (the Dnipropetrovsk region) and Stara Syniava (the Khmelnytskyi region) were renamed in his honor.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi has been married for over 20 years. Before the war, his wife Olena worked as a financier in a bank. They have two daughters. The older one became a soldier and serves in the Kyiv garrison, the younger one is a student at a medical university.