- A report published in the Times of London into the sacking of Ukrainian Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi has contradicted the version of events provided by the White House last week.1
- Following the dismissal of Zaluzhnyi — who was replaced with Oleksandr Syrskyi — National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the decision was down to Ukrainian Pres. Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 'He gets to decide who his leadership is going to be in the military,' Kirby said.2
- However, shortly after those comments, the Times reported that once rumors of Zaluzhnyi's possible firing started to emerge on Jan. 29, Rustem Umerov — the country's defense minister — was asked to meet with two US officials.1
- According to sources with knowledge of the meeting, Umerov met with Victoria Nuland, the US under-secretary of state for political affairs, and Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, in Kyiv on Jan. 31.1
- Nuland was reportedly unhappy to see Zaluzhnyi go and offered 'to smooth over misunderstandings,' according to the Times report, contradicting the White House position that it did not interfere in Zelenskyy's decision making.1
- While the White House has not commented on the report, Nuland was famously involved in another case where she and other US officials appeared to be interfering in Ukrainian politics in February 2014. Audio from a phone call that was published online showed Nuland to be promoting the idea of Arseniy Yatsenyuk as leader. He was appointed as Prime Minister a few weeks later.3
- Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by The White House. Zelenskyy is the sovereign leader of Ukraine. It is purely for him to decide who the military leadership of his country should be and the US will continue to work closely with whomever he decides to appoint to protect Ukrainian sovereignty.
- Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Times. As this report demonstrates, the US clearly interfered in Ukraine's decision-making process. Nuland met with the Ukrainian defense minister in the hope of keeping America's preferred candidate in place. The US needs to stop trying to undermine Ukraine's sovereignty.