Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny turned 50 today. During the full-scale war, he became a symbol of stability and courage, as well as a destroyer of myths about Russia's military power and the "second army of the world".
RBC-Ukraine recalled the main facts about Zaluzhnyi and why he is called the "iron general".
I wanted to be a soldier since childhood
Valery Zaluzhny is from Novohrad-Volynskyi, Zhytomyr region. His parents were military, in one of the interviews he said that his childhood was spent in the garrisons.
From an early age, Zaluzhnyi dreamed of becoming a soldier, but he did not think that he would reach the rank of general. He graduated from school and mechanical engineering school in Novohrad-Volynskyi. Further training took place already in the military sphere.
The first Golovkom without service in the Soviet army
Zaluzhnyi received a special military education and began serving in the ranks of the Armed Forces already in independent Ukraine, unlike many Ukrainian military commanders.
In 1997, he graduated from the Odessa Institute of Ground Forces. Over the next 8 years, he worked his way up from platoon and company commander to battalion commander.
He received his second education at the National Defense Academy. He graduated in 2007 with a gold medal for studying the use of mechanized tank connections.
From 2007 to 2009, he was the chief of staff - the first deputy commander of the 24th separate mechanized brigade of the 13th army corps of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (Lviv region). From 2009 to 2012, he commanded 51 separate mechanized brigades.
In 2014, Valery Zaluzhnyi became the best graduate of the operational-strategic level of training of the National Defense University of Ukraine named after Chernyakhovsky He was awarded the transitional sword of the Queen of Great Britain.
He also holds a master's degree in international relations from the Ostroh Academy.
As for all Ukrainian servicemen, the war with Russia for Zaluzhny began in 2014. In July, he was appointed deputy commander of sector "C" in Donetsk region. Commanded a battalion in the battles near Debaltseve.
He led almost all military formations created in Donbas. In 2018-2019, he was the first deputy commander of the United Forces - chief of staff of the Armed Forces.
In Zaluzhny's military biography, he is the head of all operational commands of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine:
OK "East" - head of the combat training department - deputy commander of the troops for combat training (2015-2016);
OK "South" - deputy commander of troops (2016-2017);
OK "Zahid" - chief of staff - first deputy commander (2017-2018);
OK "North" - commander of troops (2019-2021).
In August 2017, Zaluzhnyi received the rank of major general, but continued to serve on the front lines. After 4 years, he became a lieutenant general, and on March 4, 2022, by presidential decree, he was awarded the rank of General of the Armed Forces (the highest military rank).
From July 27, 2021, Valery Zaluzhny is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
After his appointment as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhnyi called the transformation of the Ukrainian armed forces in accordance with NATO standards his goal. And one of the main priorities in this is to change the attitude towards subordinates.
"Changes must take place, first of all, in the worldview and attitude towards people. I would like you to turn your face to people, to your subordinates. My attitude towards people has not changed during my entire service," Zaluzhny told officers in the summer of 2021 .
He is sure that the new generation of officers will be able to completely change the army in 5 years.
"These are not retired scapegoats, as, for example, in the Russian army, but real assistants who, according to a certain function, will soon replace the officers. We have already started this movement, and there is no turning back," he said.
Zaluzhnyi supports modern approaches in combat training. As the commander of the "North" OC, he said that reports near the map and writing combat orders had already outlived themselves.
In 2021, Zaluzhny personally commanded exercises in the Rivne region, when the Ukrainian army was just beginning to study Bayraktar drones and Javelin anti-tank missile systems, which are successfully used in battles with Russian invaders.
Industrious about the war
Zaluzhnyi warned of a high threat of full-scale aggression by the Russian Federation as early as autumn 2021. A few days after the Russian invasion, the general announced that the enemy's plans for a blitzkrieg and a change of power had been foiled.
After the first mobilization was announced in Russia in the fall of 2022, Zaluzhny assured that this will not affect our readiness to fight for our freedom.
"The Armed Forces will destroy everyone who comes to Ukraine with weapons, regardless of whether they are here voluntarily or through mobilization," he responded to the decision of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
At the same time, Zaluzhny previously said that the victory of Ukraine is unlikely to secure our country for a long time. In his opinion, it will give rest and time to prepare for the next war with Russia.
In general, interviews with him do not appear often, but literally in each of them the general "gives the base", voicing the key principles in the confrontation with Russia.
In December 2022, he told The Economist that the experience of previous years had prepared Ukraine for a full-scale invasion.
"And the most important experience that we had and which we practice almost like a religion is that Russians and any other enemies must be killed. Only killed. And not be afraid, most importantly, to do it. And that's what we do ", he said.
He called the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Federation Valery Gerasimov his personal opponent. Zaluzhnyi believes that this is a strong, insidious and unpredictable enemy, but the Ukrainian military must respect him for the sake of victory.
On the anniversary of the great invasion, Zaluzhny outlined the contours of the future victory. According to him, this is clearly the liberation of the entire occupied territory, but this alone is not enough. The general believes that Ukraine should do everything to prevent the invasion from happening again. For this, it is necessary to have an ultra-modern and combat-capable army, which will repel Russia's desire to attack again.
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, he did not hide that he was annoyed by statements about a slow counteroffensive. And he reminded that this is not a show, and without full provision of the necessary weapons, success on the battlefield is impossible. Six months earlier, the Ukrainian general assured that he knew how to defeat Russia, but he needed tanks, artillery and armored vehicles. In June 2023, he added Western-style aircraft to the formula for success.
Interesting facts about Zaluzhnyi
Zaluzhnyi has two daughters. The older one is serving in the Kyiv garrison, the younger one is studying at a medical university.
The title of "iron general" became popular after the publication of an article by Politico, in which he was called so not only because of the consonance with the surname in the Ukrainian language, but also because of his principled and steadfastness in the confrontation with Russia.
The article stated that the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will enter Ukrainian military science as a historical figure, although he seeks to avoid popularity.
Valery Zaluzhny, together with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, entered the list of 100 most influential people of 2022 according to Time in the "Leaders" category. An authoritative magazine even put him on the cover.
In an interview with the publication, he talked about the preparation for the invasion of Russian troops, and how he made the decision to move equipment to confuse the enemy.
"I was afraid that we would lose the element of surprise. We needed the enemy to think that we were all deployed at our usual bases, smoking weed, watching TV and writing on Facebook," Zaluzhny noted.