(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy replaced one of his top generals following harsh criticism in social media over setbacks on the frontline and claims of an unnecessary high death toll among the soldiers under his command. 

Zelenskiy replaced Yurii Sodol, who led the joint forces in the east of the country, after only four months in the role, and appointed Andrii Hnatov in his place. The president gave no reasons for the move in a Telegram post late Monday evening, and his spokesman Serhiy Nykyforov didn’t immediately comment. 

Sodol made a number of mistakes and was not accepted by military commanders of lower rank, said a person familiar with the president’s thinking, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. Zelenskiy had been thinking about replacing Sodol for a while, the person said.

Russia has slowly been capturing ground on the battlefield after opening a new front in an assault on the northeastern Kharkiv region last month, stretching Kyiv’s forces. After months of grinding attacks and delays in military aid from Western partners, Ukraine is fighting to hold the line amid efforts to replenish troops with new rules on mobilization. 


While Zelenskiy has replaced several top commanders since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion more than two years ago, the move is the biggest army shakeup since Zelenskiy fired his popular commander-in-chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi and his closest allies in February. That followed the failure of the 2023 counteroffensive to break through entrenched Russian lines. Sodol was appointed around the time that Oleksandr Syrskyi took over as head of the armed forces. 

Criticism of Sodol poured into the open with a scathing post over the weekend by Azov battalion chief of staff, Bohdan Krotevych, who filed a claim with the State Bureau of Investigations demanding a probe into Sodol’s performance. Krotevych’s request has been received, and investigators are working on it, the SBI said by phone.

Sodol is responsible for the unnecessary deaths of Ukrainian soldiers in the south and recently in the Kharkiv region city of Vovchansk, Maryana Bezuhla, deputy chair of Ukraine’s parliamentary committee for national security, said on Facebook before Zelenskiy announced his decision. 

“Under Sodol we missed the incursion in Kharkiv, a breakthrough in the direction of Pokrovsk and lost Avdiivka,” Bezuhla said, calling for Syrskyi and Defense Minister Rustem Umerov to scrutinize Sodol’s performance.

The Ukrainian General Staff’s press office declined to comment.

--With assistance from Daryna Krasnolutska.

(Updates with background, comments from lawmakers from fourth paragraph)

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