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"Thank you, Iron General": how Zaluzhnyi became a symbol of Ukraine's resilience and changed the course of the war

General Valerii Zaluzhnyi resigns as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi has become a symbol of resilience for the Ukrainian people in the extremely difficult times of Russia's full-scale invasion. The General is respected both among the military and civilian population of Ukraine and abroad, where he is also perceived as a symbol of resilience, strength and indestructibility of our country.

In April 2022, the American edition of Politico called him the "Iron General" after the brilliant defeat of the Russian occupiers in the Kyiv region. The occupiers dreamed of "reaching Kyiv in three days" but the Ukrainian army led by Zaluzhnyi changed the course of the war forever.

OBOZ.UA decided to recall the most successful military campaigns of the Armed Forces of Ukraine under the leadership of Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

''Thank you, Iron General'': how Zaluzhnyi became a symbol of Ukraine's resilience and changed the course of the war

Defense of Kyiv, counteroffensive in Kharkiv region, liberation of Kherson

The victory in the Battle of Kyiv, as well as the defense of the north and Kharkiv, are considered to be the events that became the starting point for all subsequent successes of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In particular, the fact that thanks to the coordinated actions of the troops led by Zaluzhnyi, the Russian army was driven out of Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions in early April 2022.

When the West predicted that Ukraine would be able to withstand a much stronger enemy for no more than three weeks, Zaluzhnyi said, "Kyiv will stand!" The general refused to blow up bridges across the Dnipro in the capital, which also played an important role in public confidence and ultimately in the defense itself.

''Thank you, Iron General'': how Zaluzhnyi became a symbol of Ukraine's resilience and changed the course of the war

The memoirs of participants in the battles for Kyiv proved that Zaluzhnyi personally made extraordinary efforts to save the capital and planned a trap operation to repel the enemy's advance. The Ukrainian army did not yet have enough equipment and men to confront the Russians in an open battle, so Zaluzhnyi considered the best option to organize a series of traps for the enemy.

''Thank you, Iron General'': how Zaluzhnyi became a symbol of Ukraine's resilience and changed the course of the war

To slow down the movement of the occupiers, the Ukrainian Armed Forces blew up bridges across the Irpin River and set off a series of explosions on the dam, so that the waters of Irpin turned the surrounding areas into impassable swamps for vehicles. This plan was a lifesaver when the occupiers concentrated their forces on trying to break through the Ukrainian troops' defense near the village of Moshchun, where the capital's defenders fought the hardest.

In the end, the occupiers failed to advance beyond Moshchun, and in early April, they withdrew their troops from near Kyiv and from northern Ukraine.

''Thank you, Iron General'': how Zaluzhnyi became a symbol of Ukraine's resilience and changed the course of the war

A little later, the respect of Western partners and the Ukrainian people was fueled by a successful counteroffensive by the Ukrainian army in the Kharkiv region. The operation had been planned for quite some time but was kept secret because success depended on it. Then the Ukrainian Armed Forces seized the moment and launched a lightning-fast counteroffensive that forced the Russians to flee in a hurry, leaving their equipment behind.

On November 11, 2022, the Ukrainian military entered Kherson, the only regional center that was occupied in the first days of the full-scale war. Zaluzhnyi said at the time that the operation had been going on since early September. "However, success has its price. Eternal memory to our fallen brothers and sisters! We know who and what we are fighting for. Together to victory," the head emphasized at the time.

''Thank you, Iron General'': how Zaluzhnyi became a symbol of Ukraine's resilience and changed the course of the war

This great success of Ukrainian troops meant the final end of Russian dictator Putin's idea to take over all of Ukraine. Such victorious operations drew even more attention to Ukraine and its army commander-in-chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

In May 2022, Time magazine included the general in the list of the world's one hundred most influential people of the year. In September, the same publication devoted a large article to Zaluzhnyi's personality, and his photo with the eloquent caption "The General" was placed on the cover of the issue.

''Thank you, Iron General'': how Zaluzhnyi became a symbol of Ukraine's resilience and changed the course of the war

"His dogged preparation in the run-up to the invasion and savvy battlefield tactics in the early stages of the war helped the country repel the Russian onslaught," the Times wrote.

In addition, Zaluzhnyi established strong relationships with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other high-ranking Western generals, which played a crucial role in securing military support for Ukraine in 2022 and 2023.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi spent more than two years as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and is leaving his post with the glory of having stopped the Russian army in the most difficult months of the invasion. In addition, he has the highest trust rating from the Ukrainian people.

"His work will go down in history," wrote his American colleague Mark Milley, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

''Thank you, Iron General'': how Zaluzhnyi became a symbol of Ukraine's resilience and changed the course of the war

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