Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has sacked the deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council in what appears to be retaliation for the official’s criticism of him.
On Dec. 29, Zelensky signed a decree removing Major General Serhiy Kryvonos from the position, which he had held since March 2019, when he was appointed to office by Zelensky’s predecessor, President Petro Poroshenko.
The firing comes just days after the major general criticized statements that the president made during an interview with the Focus news magazine that was published in Q&A format on Dec. 25.
During the interview, Focus asked Zelensky about the possibility that Russia could invade Ukraine from the Crimean peninsula, which it illegally occupied in 2014. In what seemed like off-the-cuff comments, Zelensky said that the country would be forced to mobilize citizens en masse in such a scenario.
“It’s a horrible situation. I can’t even imagine it. I’m against it. We will hope that it’s impossible. Otherwise there will be a huge war,” Zelensky said. “We aren’t going anywhere. We will all fight and everyone will be mobilized — both the men and the women.”
A day later, in comments to the Novoye Vremya news site, Kryvonos said that officials in Zelensky’s circle had convinced the president that such a mass mobilization would be possible. However, it would not work out in practice, according to Kryvonos.
In Ukraine, “patriotism isn’t supported on the level of the state,” Kryvnos said. While many Ukrainians did indeed mobilize to push back against Russian aggression in 2014, even more “fled from mobilization.”
Building up a mobilization reserve that is both physically and ideologically ready for battle is a long term process, he said.
Moreover, even if people can be mobilized rapidly, they must be prepared for military service.
“We also need to train them,” Kryvonos said. “Because we don’t fight using meat, we don’t simply throw tens of thousands of people (at the enemy).”
Kryvonos is a career military serviceman. In spring 2014, he commanded a defensive operation during the battle of Kramatorsk Airport during the early days of Russia’s war in the Donbas. He subsequently became a leader of the Special Operation Department at the General Staff of the Armed Forces.
In 2016, after Ukraine’s Special Operation Forces were made a separate branch of service, Kryvonos was appointed their first deputy commander.
Kryvonos also briefly ran for president of Ukraine in 2019, before dropping out of the race and endorsing incumbent Poroshenko’s reelection bid. Just weeks later, Poroshenko appointed him to the National Security and Defense Council.