KYIV – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy continued moves to “reboot” the leadership of his government and military even as Russia’s military launched another wave of drones across Ukraine overnight, including the capital, Kyiv.
Ukraine on February 11 announced that Oleksandr Pavlyuk — released from his first deputy defense minister post a day earlier — was named the new commander of Ukraine’s ground forces.
Pavlyuk replaced Oleksandr Syrskiy, had been promoted to become the commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces after replacing General Valeriy Zaluzhniy on February 8.
New presidential decrees also named Yuriy Sodol, the former head of Ukraine’s Marine Corps, as the new commander of Ukraine’s combined forces.
Sodol replaced Serhiy Nayev, who said he heard about his dismissal from the media.
“I learned from the media about my dismissal from the post of Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which I had held since 2020. Those were difficult times. One of the most difficult periods in the history of Ukraine,” Nayev wrote on Telegram.
Nayev thanked “all generals, officers, sergeants, and soldiers for their selfless service, for coordinated work and joint efforts, for trust and support [and] all Ukrainians for their patriotism and significant assistance to our army.”
Brigadier General Ihor Skibyuk was picked as commander of Ukraine’s air assault forces, and Major General Ihor Plahuta as commander of Ukraine’s territorial defense forces.
In a statement on Telegram on February 10, Zelenskiy said that he hoped to “reboot” the upper levels of Ukraine’s armed forces with experienced combat commanders.
“Now, people who are well-known in the army and who themselves know well what the army needs are taking on new responsibilities,” he said.
Syrskiy has signaled that his immediate goals include improving troop rotation at the front lines and harnessing the power of new technology.
Syrskiy is regarded as the architect of the most important Ukrainian victory of the war, the counteroffensive in the eastern Kharkiv region in September 2022 that chased Russian forces out of the cities of Kupyansk and Izyum.
The change in the leadership of the armed forces comes at a crucial time for Ukraine, which has failed to recapture significant territory from Russia since late 2022.
The ongoing Russian attacks also come as Kyiv faces a potential disruption in military aid supply from the United States, its biggest backer, as Republican lawmakers block a $61 billion aid package over demands for deep changes in U.S. border policy.
On the battlefield, the latest Russian attacks followed a deadly drone strike a day earlier on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the east of the country and close to the border with Russia.
The drone strike on a fuel depot killed seven people, including three children, and wounded another three, regional Governor Oleh Synyehubov said on Telegram early on February 10.
The Ukrainian Air Force said on Telegram that its air-defense systems destroyed 40 out of 45 Russia-launched Shahed attack drones overnight, many of which reportedly targeted port infrastructure in the south of the country.
“The air alert in the capital lasted almost two hours,” Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said on Telegram.
Popko said all drones over Kyiv had been destroyed on their approach. No casualties or damage was reported in or around Kyiv, according to first reports.
Air-defense systems destroyed 26 Russia-launched Shahed drones over several southern regions, Ukraine’s southern military command said on Telegram, adding that the Mykolayiv region near the Black Sea suffered some of the heaviest attacks.
At least one civilian was injured in the southern Ukraine attack, the military said.
“The priority for the enemy was again the coastal strip of infrastructure and agro-industrial facilities,” the military said.
Residential buildings and a gas pipeline in Mykolayiv suffered damaged from falling debris from a downed drone and the subsequent blast wave, the military command said.
Four drones were shot down over the Black Sea port of Odesa, the military said.
A day earlier, at least eight people were killed and several others wounded in a round of Russian drone strikes and shelling that also damaged port infrastructure critical for Ukraine’s food exports, the military and regional officials said.