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“Iron General” Zaluzhnyi turns 50

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi
Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine
“Iron General” Zaluzhnyi turns 50

Emblematic of Ukraine’s resistance, Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, turns 50 as Ukraine marks its 500th day of the full-scale war on 8 July.

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi was born into a family of military personnel in Zviyahel city, Zhytomyr Oblast. Little Valeriy spent his childhood in the garrison among other soldiers. At the first lesson at school, Valeriy told the first teacher that he would become a soldier and would defend our country.
Before taking up the post of commander-in-chief, Zaluzhnyi was the head of the Operational Command North. Earlier, he was Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the West Operational Command and commander of the now disbanded 51st Separate Mechanized Brigade. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi has been in Donbas since 2014.
Zaluzhnyi has been Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief since 27 July 2021, when the threat of a full-scale Russian offensive had already begun to grow. In September of the same year, Zaluzhnyi said, “The threat of full-scale aggression exists, has existed, and will continue to exist. Our task as the Armed Forces is not to wait for manna from heaven, we have to prepare for it. And we are doing everything for this.”

Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi waits before a meeting with US Defense Secretary and other officials in Kyiv on 19 October 2021. (Photo: Gleb Garanich, AFP)

In April 2022, after the defeat of the Russian occupiers’ troops in the Kyiv Oblast, Politico named Zaluzhnyi “Iron General.” At the time, the media outlet ran an analytical piece saying that “the commander will become a legendary figure in the history of Ukraine. After all, the success of the Ukrainian army surprised the whole world.”
In May 2022, TIME included Valeriy Zaluzhnyi in its list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Later, on 26 September 2022, Zaluzhnyi’s portrait appeared on the cover of TIME. It was the first time when Ukrainian military man appeared on the cover of the prestigious publication. The magazine emphasized that the Ukrainian army would hardly have achieved such success without its commander. They signed it simply and tastefully “General.” It was the first time Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief spoke to the international media since the beginning of the full scale.

Source: TIME. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi on the cover

In December 2022, the general gave an interview with The Economist, in which he warned of Russia’s preparations for a new offensive and emphasized the desperate need for armored vehicles and air defense systems for Ukrainian forces. On the anniversary of the invasion in February 2023, Zaluzhnyi summarized the year in an interview with Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Komarov.
In June, Zaluzhnyi spoke to The Washington Post to respond to statements by Western military officials, diplomats and analysts about the allegedly “slow” pace of the Ukrainian military’s counteroffensive.
Zaluzhnyi’s plan for victory, in his own words, is “definitely 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 began on 24 February 2022, never happens again.”
In Zaluzhnyi’s opinion, it is necessary to create conditions under which Russia will never have the opportunity to repeat its aggression. Therefore, according to him, the main stake should be placed on a powerful, large and modern army.
Besides, Zaluzhnyi has been a consistent advocate of the idea that reforms in the army should come from the top, “The general course of reforming the Ukrainian Armed Forces in accordance with NATO principles and standards remains irreversible. And the key here is the principles.” He mentioned that changes had to take place first and foremost in the outlook and attitude toward people.

Personal facts

Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief likes hiking and walking around Ukraine. “I still have a passion for traveling on foot, from my pioneer days: I put on a tracksuit and go explore the city,” he said. Zaluzhnyi is always accompanied on these trips by his wife, Olena.

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi with his wife, Olena

Besides, Zaluzhnyi enjoys disco and Rammstein music, as well as cats on Instagram.
In the interview with Dmitry Komarov, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said that he is a person with a heart, “the fact that the emotions on my face and in my behavior do not betray human pain does not mean anything. In fact, the heart feels, and it feels great pain, even now.”
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