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Ukrainian army ex-chief Zaluzhnyi becomes ambassador: Career path from military to diplomacy

Ukrainian army ex-chief Zaluzhnyi becomes ambassador: Career path from military to diplomacy Photo: Valerii Zaluzhnyi appointed ambassador to Britain (Getty Images)

Valerii Zaluzhnyi has been appointed Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Kingdom. The decree appointing the former Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to the new position was signed by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on May 9.

RBC-Ukraine has gathered everything known about Zaluzhnyi's military career, his resignation as Commander-in-Chief, and his appointment to the diplomatic service.

Sources: presidential decrees No. 316/2024, No. 309/2024, a statement by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, President Zelenskyy's interview with Fox News, and Wikipedia.


Zaluzhnyi leaves for the UK

The presidential decree appointing Valerii Zaluzhnyi as Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was published on May 9, 2024.

It was preceded by another decree on the end of Zaluzhnyi's military service. The document signed by the head of state stated: "To dismiss General Zaluzhnyi Valerii Fedorovych from military service on health grounds with the right to wear military uniforms."

Plans to appoint Zaluzhnyi as ambassador to the United Kingdom surfaced in early March.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy approved the former Armed Forces chief's candidacy and explained that working in the diplomatic field was Zaluzhnyi's personal wish, which he voiced himself to the president.

Subsequently, it was reported that the appointment procedure had been launched, as Ukraine had asked the British side for the appointment and received confirmation.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba previously explained that the president had been looking for a strong candidate for the ambassador position to London for a long time. One of the key requirements was an understanding of the military context.

"Britain is one of the leaders in military assistance to Ukraine. It is a country that has a vision for military strategy. Therefore, the new ambassador must have a deep military background," Kuleba stressed.

The minister said he had several conversations with the former AFU commander, during which he was convinced that Zaluzhnyi was not opposing diplomatic work.

Kuleba also said that the former Commander-in-Chief has a relevant education, as in 2020, he received a master's degree in international relations from the Ostroh Academy.

The previous ambassador of Ukraine to the UK was Vadym Prystaiko, but the president dismissed him in July 2023.

Resignation of Armed Forces chief

Information about the possible dismissal of Valerii Zaluzhnyi was discussed throughout last year. Among the possible reasons were disagreements between the president and the commander. Learn more in the article on RBC-Ukraine.

The rotation in the highest military command of the Armed Forces did take place on February 8, 2024.

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi resigned. In his position, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appointed the Commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrskyi.

Ukrainian army ex-chief Zaluzhnyi becomes ambassador: Career path from military to diplomacyPhoto: Zaluzhnyi was AFU Commander-in-Chief for 2.5 years (Getty Images)

The President of Ukraine explained the replacement as necessary for renewal and reboot.

"We have to be faster. This means getting rid of all the bureaucracy we have, otherwise we will have no chance. We need to be smarter, more technologically advanced and, of course, faster. Time is money, and in our case, time is people's lives," Zelenskyy said.

The next day, on February 9, the President awarded Zaluzhnyi the title of Hero of Ukraine.

Iron General: Career path of a military man

Valerii Zaluzhnyi devoted his life to military service. He graduated from the Odesa Command School, the National Defense Academy, and the Ivan Chernyakhovsky National Defense University of Ukraine. At the latter, he was awarded the Queen's transitional sword as the best graduate at the operational and strategic levels.

He began his career in the military at the time of Ukraine's independence, unlike many Ukrainian military leaders who served under the USSR.

Valerii Fedorovych went through all the stages of a military career. After graduation, he was appointed Chief of Staff and First Deputy of the 24th Separate Mechanized Brigade in Yavoriv, Lviv region.

Between 2009 and 2012, he commanded the 51st Separate Mechanized Brigade.

During the Anti-Terrorist Operation, he was the deputy commander of Sector C in the Donetsk region, commanding a battalion in the battles near Debaltseve. In 2018-2019, he held the position of First Deputy Commander of the Joint Forces - Chief of Staff of the Joint Forces Operation.

In 2017, he was promoted to the rank of Major General.

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

  • Operational Command East - Head of the Combat Training Department - Deputy Commander of the Troops for Combat Training (2015-2016);
  • Operational Command South - Deputy Commander of the troops (2016-2017);
  • Operational Command West - Chief of Staff - First Deputy Commander (2017-2018);
  • Operational Command North - Commander of the troops (2019-2021).

Ukrainian army ex-chief Zaluzhnyi becomes ambassador: Career path from military to diplomacyPhoto: Valerii Zaluzhnyi has gone through all the stages of a military career (Getty Images)

In 2021, Valerii Zaluzhnyi was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He was the Commander-in-Chief for over 2.5 years. On March 4, 2022, he was promoted to the rank of General of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the highest military rank.

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russia, Zaluzhnyi has become one of the key military figures in the world. Under his command, the Defense Forces did not allow the enemy to capture the capital and conducted successful counteroffensive operations in the east and south of the country.

The West knows Valerii Zaluzhnyi as the Iron General. This is how he was called in a Politico article. The article says that the military leader will become a legendary figure in the history of Ukraine because the success of the Ukrainian army has surprised the world.

During his tenure as Commander-in-Chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi spoke little to the media, but he described his vision of the course of hostilities and prospects on the battlefield in several articles. You can find more details in an article by RBC-Ukraine.