Zelenskyy’s split with military is ‘Russian propaganda’: Ukraine parliament chief

BRUSSELS — The chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, dismissed what he called “rumors” of tension between the country’s government and its military high command in an interview with POLITICO. Russia, he said, was using the insinuations to splinter Kyiv’s unity following Moscow’s full-scale invasion.

Ukraine’s sluggish progress in recovering some of its lost territory during its counteroffensive to repel Russian forces has led to the first public signs of friction between Zelenskyy and his generals, as the Ukrainian president scrambled to preserve support among Western allies.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, speaker of the parliament and a former top aide to Zelenskyy, claimed the rumors of discord were spread from “Russian channels,” calling them “Russian propaganda.”

“There has never been a single case of tension between the political and the military leadership,” said Stefanchuk, who is typically present during war cabinet meetings.

In an interview with The Economist published earlier this month, Ukraine’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, acknowledged 1/01/ukraines-commander-in-chief-on-the-breakthrough-he-needs-to-beat-russia" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the war had reached a “stalemate” — prompting a rebuttal from Zelenskyy.

“Everyone is tired. There are different opinions … but this is not a stalemate,” Zelenskyy said at a Kyiv press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen a few days later.

The Ukrainian president then doubled down during one of his nightly addresses, warning that Ukrainians should be “concentrating their efforts right now on defending the country … not drown in infighting or other issues.”

Despite the influx of billions of euros worth of military aid from its partners, Ukraine’s limited progress has raised the prospect of war fatigue among its Western allies — especially as the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East threatens to divert support from the United States, which has been Kyiv’s main backer since Russia’s invasion.

Stefanchuk, who was in Brussels this week for meetings with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and other legislative officials, was more concerned about Ukrainian soldiers getting tired of fighting than of the world getting bored of Ukraine.

Still, he admitted Kyiv was doing “everything that we can to make sure that the world does not forget about Ukraine.”

Stefanchuk said he would travel to the United States for the first time in a couple of days, without specifying a timeframe, where he will meet with American lawmakers to discuss “the U.S. support to Ukraine.” For security reasons, the travel plans of high-ranking Ukrainian officials are usually kept under wraps until the last minute.

Zelenskyy’s movements are particularly sensitive, as the Ukrainian president has faced several assassination attempts by the Kremlin since the start of the war.

According to the Ukrainian constitution, in the event of Zelenskyy’s death, Stefanchuk would be next in line to replace him.

Asked if that prospect weighed on him, Stefanchuk said: “I know for sure that President Zelenskyy will be the president of our victory. And I would just like to be the speaker of the victory.”