Over the past week, almost all of the country's military leadership has been replaced. So far, only Minister of Defence Andrii Taran has retained his post, but three of his deputies were fired (although two of them were transferred to the position of advisers).
Chief of the General Staff Ruslan Khomchak was dismissed from his post. Tellingly, at the same time his wife, the Head of the Chernihiv regional administration, Anna Kovalenko, was forced to "leave". It looked in the best traditions of the region given over " for feeding"—it was too harsh even in our conditions of "baronies". It was done so straightforwardly and synchronously.
But, again, not only the Chief of the General Staff was replaced—these are clearly not personal and not issues with synergy, as officials stated at briefings. The Commander of the Joint Forces Operation was replaced—Oleksandr Pavliuk took over the front in the JFO.
Valeriy Zaluzhny became the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Serhiy Sheptala—Chief of the General Staff. The Commander of the Air Assault Forces Yevhen Moisiuk was appointed Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Even the head of the Medical Forces was replaced: for the first time in the history of Ukraine, a woman, Tetiana Ostashchenko, became a leader of a separate branch of the army.
But the "broomstick" touched not only the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The head of internal security of the SBU Andriy Naumov has lost his post—there are rumors that this was a service within the service with a strong bias towards the economy and the solution of issues related not only to security.
Amid the changes that have taken place, the decision of the long-time Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov to leave at his own request became clearer—he probably had information about the planned perturbations. The Ministry has already begun a process of departmental fragmentation: the National Guard has been taken out of control, discussions are underway that the State Border Guard Service will also be a separate structure.
That is, such things are not done due to lack of synergy or out of personal interests. These are profound systemic changes. Removing NGU from the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and reassigning the guard to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief—this greatly changes the political cards in the country. Now it is less likely that the Minister of Internal Affairs will be an independent figure, and any of them will have less leverage.
What does this mean in practice? Strengthening the power vertical with the ruling party, more control with the president, promotion of conditional "hawks" in office. Precisely, by the way, "hawks" is not just a nice phrase. All those who came to the posts are military officers with good experience.
"Hawks" in the Armed Forces of Ukraine
For example, the former commander of the Air Assault Forces, Moisiuk, began the war as a brigade commander of the 81st brigade, and these are battles for the Donetsk airport and the triangle near it—Vodiane, Opytne, Pisky, one of the most intense sections of the front. Moreover, Moisiuk had the experience of Kosovo and Iraq before the hot summer of 2014.
That is why he was put in charge of the 81st, hastily "stitched" from three battalions of other brigades—it was formed after the start of the ATO, using the backbone of the 25th, 95th, and 80th. The successful defensive actions of the Air Assault Forces gave time to prepare a defensive center at Avdiivka and Mariinka, occupy the Butovka mine and reliably blockade the capital of the unrecognized republic.
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhny—Deputy Commander of Sector "C". It was this sector that carried out a successful offensive on the Sloviansk agglomeration, the liberation of Popasna, Dzerzhinsk, and Artemivsk. And he withstood a difficult winter campaign, with the loss of Vuhlehirsk, the lost road to Lozove, and the leaving of Debaltseve.
At that time the enemy aimed to take Myronivskyi, bypass the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine behind the headquarters near Zaitsevo in the direction of the E-40 highway and take Bakhmut. But their efforts crashed against the tactical group Bars (Leopard from Ukrainian), that was led by the current head of the Ground Forces, and at that time the Chief of Staff of sector "C" Syrskyi), and the resilience of the 128th brigade. As a result, he was promoted to purely staff work: Deputy Commander of OC "West", Chief of Staff of the JFO.
Hero of Ukraine Serhiy Sheptala—cavalry brigade 128. From the controversial things, there was a loss of the road to Ridkodub, but a successful defensive operation along the face of the ledge and the withdrawal of the brigade exhausted by difficult encounter battles through the neck at the heights.
For this operation at the height of negotiations in Minsk, when Putin several times argued that the ATO forces were in a sack near Debaltseve, and the maintenance of the brigade as a combat unit, Sheptala received the Gold Star. Later he became the Deputy of OС "Yug" and the Commander of the OС "West" troops.
Operational situation corrects personnel
All of them are competent officers, all—with combat experience, who made their careers with the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Plus, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Valeriy Kondratiuk, was replaced—is there only an international scandal about Chaus kidnapped from the territory of Moldova? Far from being a fact. At least because this is the fourth consecutive replacement. Plus fragmentation in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Plus the SSU. There are somehow too many coincidences for the lack of synergy between the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff—as it was announced after Khomchak's dismissal.
It is difficult to say what is happening in the political field—except that for some reason the ruling party urgently needed the centralization of the power vertical.
But at the front, the de-escalation and separation strategy obviously failed:
- heavy weapons shelling of the 13th battalion headquarters of the 58th brigade;
- regular shelling in the area of responsibility of the 93rd and ATGM at the car where the brigade's support deputy was killed and three more officers were wounded (all of them were deputies for supplies and logistics with checks);
- ongoing sniper war.
The SSU detained a network of agents working in the Russian Federation, including the current lieutenant colonel. Tens of thousands of people continue to get passports in the territories and the telephone code of the Russian Federation was assigned to them.
Does this look like de-escalation and preparation for the execution of Minsk? No. It looks like a slide into another escalation and a war of attrition. And plus internal problems: the State Defense Order that was concluded in the Q2, problems with food against the backdrop of monopolization emerge from time to time, unused funds in the Ministry of Defense.
This is also why the deck is shuffled and a new team is formed. Agreeing in the middle is not as easy as running an election campaign, and implementing reforms is not as easy as talking about it on TV.
The war continues, and it is critically important for Ukraine both to move into NATO and to build up the capabilities of the security structures. On the whole, the personnel changes inspire cautious optimism both regarding the situation in the JFO and for reforms outside the line of contact.