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Zelenskyy honors spy chief and ousted top general as heroes of Ukraine

General Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov received the highest state honor from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who praised their contributions to the defense of Ukraine.
Zaluzhnyy and Zelenskyy
President Zelenskyy and General Zaluzhnyy. Credit: Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has awarded medals of heroes of Ukraine to the former Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and the head of the Ukrainian Intel, Kyrylo Budanov.

In a significant military leadership reshuffle, President Zelenskyy dismissed General Valerii Zaluzhnyi and appointed Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi as the new Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine a day before, on 8 February 2024.

“For outstanding personal merits in the defense of state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, selfless service to the Ukrainian people, I hereby decree to award the title of Hero of Ukraine with the Order of the Golden Star to General Valerii Zaluzhnyi,” the presidential decree no. 61 stated.

Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, 38, the chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, was also decorated by the Ukrainian President.

“For personal courage and heroism in the defense of the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, selfless service to the Ukrainian people, I hereby decree to award the title of Hero of Ukraine with the Order of the Golden Star to Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov,” the presidential decree no. 57 stated.

Kyrylo Budanov has been the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense since August 2020.

Budanov and Zelenskyy
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s spy chief Kyrylo Budanov.
Credit: Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Today, we bestow state honors and the title of Hero of Ukraine on the warriors who, along with all those who have fought for our country and Ukrainian life, shape Ukraine’s future. Ukraine has already successfully halted Russia’s advance. Ukraine has learned to defend itself precisely as required to win. And we need to go all the way to achieve our Ukrainian goals,” President Zelenskyy said.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi, 51, a Ukrainian four-star general, served as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from 27 July 2021 until 8 February 2024. He is also concurrently a Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council member.

General Zaluzhnyi was previously the Commander of the North Operational Command (2019–2021), Chief of the Joint Operational Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, First Deputy Commander of the Joint Forces (2018), Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the West Operational Command (2017), and Commander of the 51st Guards Mechanized Brigade (2009–2012).

Zaluzhnyi was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2022. He has received praise for his skill at “adapting to a fast-changing battlefield” through effective delegation and information gathering during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


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