Military leaders who make history. Meet the top figures of the Ukrainian army
Successful counteroffensives in Kyiv and Kharkiv regions, as well as the liberation of Kherson, have become an example of the effectiveness of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Many of today’s successes are owed to the reforms that were enacted after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the Ukrainian army has gone through important transformations and changes.
These developments, coupled with combat experience, allowed the Ukrainian Army to show great results on the battlefield following the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. An important role in combat operations belongs to the Ukrainian military leadership.
Notably, most of the current top Ukrainian military leaders were combatants during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Tempered by fire and steel, they represent the new generation of the Ukrainian Army.
Who are they, and what’s their story? Read it in our short explainer about key Ukrainian generals who are fighting for the impedance of the free world.
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine — Valerii Zaluzhnyi
Valerii Zaluzhnyi has gone through all of the stages of a military career. Starting as a platoon leader, he eventually became the top Ukrainian commander.
In 2014, he graduated from the Ivan Cherniakhovskyi National Defense University of Ukraine. As the best graduate of the operational and strategic level of training, he was awarded the Transitional Sword of the Queen of Great Britain.
Zaluzhnyi actively participated in the fighting in the Donbas. In 2017, he was promoted to general – but he was in no hurry to transfer staff positions and continued to work on the front line.
Zaluzhnyi is the first Ukrainian top commander who hasn’t served in the Soviet Army.
TIME magazine has named him one of the most influential people of 2022.
“Master of counteroffensives”
Commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine — Oleksandr Syrskyi
Oleksandr Syrskyi is another example of a reformer and combat general in the Ukrainian Army.
Before the Russian invasion in 2014, Syrskyi was responsible for cooperation between the Ukrainian Armed Forces and NATO. In particular, he participated in negotiations on reforming the army in accordance with NATO standards.
Later, in early 2014, Syrskyi was appointed Chief of Staff of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO). He was one of the key commanders during the difficult battles for Debaltseve in 2015.
After the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Syrskyi led the defense of Kyiv and the counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region.
Now Syrskyi focuses on defense in the east of Ukraine. He regularly visits the front line and its hotspots.
“Defender of the sky”
Commander of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine — Mykola Oleshchuk
Like his counterparts, Mykola Oleshchuk also took part in combat missions in the east of Ukraine in 2014.
Oleshchuk was the Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander of Ukraine’s East Air Command.
Since the first days of the full-scale war, Oleshchuk and his colleagues have been defending the Ukrainian sky from Russian attacks on a daily basis.
“Protector of the sea”
Commander of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine — Oleksiy Neizhpapa
Oleksiy Neizhpapa is a native of Crimea. In 2015-2019, he was the Deputy Commander of the Navy for Combat Training.
During the illegal Russian annexation of Crimea, he left the peninsula together with the sailors who remained loyal to their oath to Ukraine.
Neizhpapa participated in the Anti-Terrorist Operation in the east of Ukraine. He has also led the Ukrainian-American Sea Breeze exercise on behalf of the Ukrainian side.
In 2022, Neizhpapa was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral. As it was suggested in the Ukrainian media, he was rewarded for sinking the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — ‘Moskva.’
Commander of the Airborne Assault Troops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine — Maksym Myrhorodskyi
Maksym Myrhorodskyi is one of the most famous combat commanders in the Ukrainian army and heroes of the war.
At the beginning of the war in Donbas in 2014, he commanded a battalion of the 79th Airborne Brigade, which conducted raids to break through the encirclement of Ukrainian forces.
In the fall of 2014, Myrhorodskyi commanded the defense of the Donetsk Airport – an important page in the history of Ukrainian resistance to Russian aggression.
Nowadays, Myrhorodskyi commands the airborne assault troops which are actively fighting to liberate the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories.
“Leader of special forces”
Commander of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – Viktor Khorenko
Viktor Khorenko heads the youngest and most modern unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Due to security reasons, his biography is not widely known.
Previously, Khorenko commanded the special reserve of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.
Under Khorenko’s command, the Special Forces perform some of the riskiest tasks on the frontline.
“Commander with the experience”
Commander of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine — Ihor Tantsiura
Ihor Tantsiura is a professional serviceman.
Previously, he was in charge of the Desna 169th Training Center of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Chernihiv region. Tantsiura was responsible for the education and training of the military.
He has also participated in the training of peacekeeping contingents under the auspices of the UN and the International Peacekeeping Force in Kosovo.
Tantsiura served as the Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander of the Land Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. From the beginning of the full-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine, he was one of those in charge of Kyiv’s defense.
Prepared by: Diana Matviiv
Edited by: Kvitka Perehinets
Designed by: Vladyslav Rybalko