Rumored plans to dismiss military commanders are likely government intrigue – expert interview

Rustem Umerov, Oleksiy Danilov, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Valeriy Zaluzhnyy (from left)
Rustem Umerov, Oleksiy Danilov, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Valeriy Zaluzhnyy (from left)

NV’s sister publication Ukrainska Pravda has reported that Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov is preparing requests to dismiss three commanders of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, namely Commander of the Tavria front Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, Commander of the Medical Forces Tetiana Ostaschenko, and Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Serhiy Nayev.

The Defense Ministry stated that “the information released by several media outlets does not correspond to reality.”

But these words are not enough, says political scientist Oleksiy Koshel. In an interview with NV Radio on Nov. 14, he explained why and what should be the reaction to such media reports.

NV: Information or rumors that some kind of reshuffle may be being prepared in the army is not news to us. But this causes concern in Ukrainian society. And what do you think about such information? Did someone try to use these journalists by leaking something?

Koshel: I’ll remind you there were several media reports about a possible dismissal on Nov. 13. These were quite authoritative bloggers and former lawmakers. Everyone referred to their sources.

And later, this information was confirmed by the authoritative and pro-government publication Ukrainska Pravda, citing its sources in the government.

Read also: Special forces commander Khorenko dismissed at Umerov’s request, President’s Office says

Therefore, in fact, it’s not just about a single leak, but a series of coordinated leaks.

And before that, we had a message from MP Oleksiy Honcharenko who hinted that we’re about to see significant personnel changes in the military. Prior to that, another MP Volodymyr Ariev also made similar suggestions. And that’s why, in fact, it’s about a whole information wave during several days, almost a week.

And it’s quite natural that one refutation from the Defense Ministry isn’t enough.

NV: And what can this trend be aiming to achieve?

Koshel: In any case, the defense minister [Rustem Umerov] cannot make such serious decisions alone. He [renders them] only after consultation with the President’s Office, with the Supreme Commander-in-Chief [Volodymyr Zelenskyy]. And it’s quite natural that a sufficiently large number of people can be involved in consultations, negotiations, and preparation of personnel decisions. These are assistants, advisors, the secretariat, and people who are responsible for communication and meetings.

Read also: Defense minister Umerov’s plan to reform the military – expert analysis

That is, it’s about a huge bureaucratic structure. There are more than enough sources of information for both the media and the opposition.

Does society have the right to question the objectivity of such information? Is one refutation from the Defense Ministry enough? I don’t think it’s enough.

First, we received a precedent in the form of dismissal [Viktor Khorenko] from the post of commander of the Special Operations Forces. And this came as a surprise both to the commander himself and to [the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine] General Valerii Zaluzhnyi who publicly stated that they had learned about it from the news.

NV: By the way, there was a clarification that the commander-in-chief makes such decisions based on a request from the defense minister. That is, formally everything took place according to the law. But if we talk about the human side, questions arose.

Koshel: The side of governance, management, and common sense. Because everyone perfectly understands that the defense minister, to put it very roughly, is actually the chief housekeeping manager in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. That is, he is responsible for supply, logistics, procurement, and many other things.

Read also: What's happening around Zaluzhnyi

But Commander-in-Chief Zaluzhnyi should be responsible for personnel appointments. That would at least be logical.

And therefore, it’s quite obvious that, most likely, Umerov played an exclusively technical role in the dismissal of the commander of the Special Operations Forces. And now he could also play a technical role in the dismissal of three other commanders.

That’s precisely why I believe that the defense minister’s refutation is simply not enough. It won’t play any role. And believe me that talks about possible personnel reshuffle will continue today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow.

Therefore, the President’s Office should [announce this] not through a secondary spokesperson, but perhaps even through the president. There should be a clear statement about possible personnel reshuffles in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

There may be different questions here. Perhaps there is military expediency or some kind of military logic behind. But they must talk about it frankly and honestly.

Read also: Defense Minister Umerov refutes rumors of attempting to sack Zaluzhnyi

If this information doesn’t correspond to reality, it’s more serious. In this case, it’s a disinformation campaign in wartime, which is quite threatening. In this case, the media, bloggers, and politicians who released this information should face public scrutiny.

There must be a reaction at the highest level, otherwise the doubts will continue. And the doubt is not that someone is insidiously preparing personnel reshuffle. But the doubt is that [intrigues] are taking place in the government. And this is one of the key elements that shows that the government is weak.

We cannot afford a weak government in wartime, engaged in intrigue and thinking about how to set someone up. The government must be monolithic and strong. This is extremely important.

We only saw two actions. This is a statement from the Defense Ministry. And, by the way, which is very important, this is a simultaneous statement by Zelenskyy and Zaluzhnyi, who spoke almost identical theses. This is extremely important.

NV: At least we saw unity here.

Read also: Former SOF commander learned of his dismissal from news reports

Koshel: I think we’re not the only ones who saw it. I think this statement was made, most likely, for the West, for diplomacy. It was made in careful language for the collective West to see that everything is fine with us, and that intrigue, information scandals are our minor internal problems.

But not only such signals are important to us. It’s important for us that Ukrainian citizens see this clear position.

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