Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and commander-in-chief of Ukrainian military, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi (File)
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1820 GMT:
In what may be its last act of obstruction, the ruling party of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has boycotted a Parliamentary session to approve Sweden’s membership of NATO.
Ambassadors from 15 NATO members were in the viewing gallery in expectation of the confirmation, held up for months by the tactics of Orbán, a long-time ally of Vladimir Putin.
Only 51 out of 199 MPs voted on the agenda, with all members of the Fidesz-KDNP ruling coalition boycotting.
Agnes Vadai, a member of the Hungarian opposition, noted that Orbán delayed the vote out of “personal vanity”, a desire to “make headlines in the international press”, and “a gesture to Russian President Vladimir Putin by undermining the unity of NATO and the EU”.
UPDATE 1818 GMT:
At least four residents have been killed and one injured in a Russian attack on Kherson city in southern Ukraine.
Artillery fire struck Kherson at around noon. Two of the men, aged 45 and 50, were killed while sitting in a car.
UPDATE 1814 GMT:
The Netherlands is preparing another six US-made F-16 fighters jets for delivery to Ukraine, Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren has announced.
The Dutch have now committed 24 F-16s to Kyiv.
UPDATE 1156 GMT:
Russia has killed at least one civilian and injured at least five in attack on nine of Ukraine’s regions over the past 24 hours.
The civilian was killed in Toretsk the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine. Four were injured across the region, including two in the frontline town of Avdiivka.
In the Kherson region in southern Ukraine, the Russians launched 36 attacks, injuring one person and damaging residential areas and a museum in Kherson city.
About 18 settlements were attacked with artillery and mortars in the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine. No casualities were reported, but a power substation, houses, an administrative building, a warehouse, and agricultural equipment were damaged.
Attacks were also reported on the Chernihiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk, Sumy, and Mykolaiv regions.
UPDATE 0712 GMT:
The Guardian’s Shaun Walker writes about concerns over the “re-education” of Ukrainian children deported to Russia.
Veronika Vlasenko, who spent 14 months in Russia, says of teachers and fellow students:
Every day they said to me that I would be staying here for ever and would never leave Russia. They told me that Ukraine doesn’t exist, that it never existed, that we’re all Russians….At times the other kids would beat me for being pro-Ukrainian.
Ukrainian officials have confirmed the forced transfer of almost 20,000 juveniles to Russia or Russian-occupied territory. The actual number is likely far higher, given issues of access to areas held by Moscow: some Russian officials have boasted of moving 700,000 children.
Last March the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and Russia’s “Children’s Rights” Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova over the deportations.
Vlasenko, then 12, travelled across the border with her aunt two weeks after Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022. They hoped to avoid the battles in their village in the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine, less than a mile from Russia.
Vlasenko was separated from her aunt and put in a children’s home in the city of Lipetsk. Her mother, who had served in the Ukrainian army, was unable to travel to Russia because of fear of arrest.
“It was so hard to be alone in this environment, with everyone telling me terrible things about Ukraine,” Vlasenko says. Traumatized, she lost weight and her hair started falling out.
Her grandmother, travelling thousands of miles from Kharkiv to Lipetsk via Poland and the Baltic States, brought Vlasenko back to Ukraine and reunited her with her mother.
“Now I just want to help other Ukrainian children to come home too,” she says.
Speaking in Latvia’s capital Riga last week about the deportations, Ukraine First Lady Olena Zelenska explained, “Russia is telling [the children] they are not wanted, that nobody is looking for them, changing their names and trying to issue them Russian passports.”
Zelenska called on Ukraine’s international supporters and neutral countries for assistance: “There is no more important task for the adults to use their power and resources on than to help rescue children.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has pointed to replacement of senior officials, less than a week after he reportedly tried but fail to dismissed the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian military, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi.
Zelenskiy said in an interview with Italian State TV, “It is a question of the people who are to lead Ukraine. A reset is necessary, I am talking about a replacement of a number of state leaders, not only in the army sector.”
Last Monday, politicians and journalists from both pro- and anti-Zelenskiy camps supported claims on social media that Zelenskiy asked Gen. Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief since July 2021, to step down. He offered another position to Zaluzhnyi — a defense advisor, Secretary of the National Security Council, or an ambassador to a European country — but the general said no and refused to write a resignation letter.
Since then, reports have continued that Zelenskiy intends to replace Zaluzhnyi, with US officials informed of the impending change.
Asked by the Italian outlet about Zalushnyi, the President — possibly to dilute the impact of the commander’s reemoval — pointed to the wider reshuffle, “When I speak of turnover, I have in mind something serious that does not concern a single person, but the direction of the country’s leadership.”
He said that for Ukraine to defeat the 23-month Russian invasion, “we must all push in the same direction, we cannot be discouraged, we must have the right and positive energy, negativity must be left at home”.
Zalushnyi unsettled the President’s office with an essay last November in which he acknowledged disappointing results from Ukraine’s counter-offensive and spoke of a “stalemate”.
Differences have escalated with the commander’s pursuit of mass mobilization, which is opposed by Zelenskiy.
Last week, as he told CNN about new electronic means of warfare, Zalushnyi returned to the topic of mobilization. He said some Ukrainian institutions were keeping the country from achieving its objectives by rejecting “unpopular measures”.
However, any dismissal of the general could be politically risky: in a December survey by the Kyiv International Institute for Sociology, 88% of Ukrainians said they trusted Zaluzhnyi, compared with 62% for Zelenskiy.
Zelenskiy Visits Frontline in South
Zelenskiy visited the frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region in southern Ukraine on Sunday.
Spokesperson Sergiy Nykyforov said the President was in Robotyne, liberated last August: “There are active hostilities there, so there were relatively close explosions.”
Zelenskiy told troops, “I have the great honor to be here today, to reward you, because you have such a difficult and decisive mission on your shoulders, to repel the enemy and win this war.”
He later went to his hometown of Kryvyi Rih in south-central Ukraine, the site of Russian missile attacks last week.
In meetings at the East Air Force Command, Zelenskiy reported a “detailed discussion on the protection of the skies over the Dnipropetrovsk region”. He said, “The threat remains constant and severe.”
Today, I visited frontline positions at one of the most difficult areas of the frontline, in Robotyne, to speak with warriors in person and award those who have shown remarkable results in combat in recent weeks.
I thanked them for their bravery and endurance in defending our… pic.twitter.com/bmSnXqHnls
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 4, 2024