Seymour Hersh:

Zelensky’s desire to fire his commanding general is the result, some Americans believe, of his knowledge that Zaluzhny had continued to participate—whether directly or through aides is not known—in secret talks since last fall with American and other Western officials on how best to achieve a ceasefire and negotiate an end to the war with Russia. It was those talks that led Zaluzhny to declare to the Economist that the war was stalemated. Zelensky has talked of mobilizing 500,000 more soldiers, via another draft, and to try again this spring to launch another counteroffensive against the Russians.


Zelensky must be told: “You’ve got to get rid of corruption before we do anything more.” The second step is something that does not exist today in Ukraine: a serious audit of all government funding. The official said Zelensky should consider the billions he needs “as our money, as an investment with all of the rules” for its disbursement “to be laid out. and followed.”

Last year CIA Director William Burns secretly flew to Kyiv to warn Zelensky face-to-face that Washington was aware of his personal corruption and his unwillingness to dismiss any of the dozens of officials—who were named by Burns—known to be deeply involved in diverting defense funds to personal accounts. Burns also told the president, as I reported, that there was anger among some of his subordinates because he was taking too large a cut of the spoils.

“The third step,” the official said, is for Zelensky to use the funds “to build infrastructure and the economy. The fourth and final step is to defend your country.”


“Of course, Zelensky knew that Zaluzhny was dealing with the West,” the official said. “But Zelensky will be a dead man walking with the army, which is in favor of the general. He’s going to have a mutiny on his hands.“

The current plan evolved among experts in the intelligence and military bureaucracy without input from the White House, the State Department, or the National Security Council. “It stems from the American and Ukraine general staffs and it is putting investments” from private industry, the official said, “and not solely government funding and grants as the ticket out.

“Putin, too,” the official said, “is looking for a way out. And he’s got the message.” The Russian leader has won the four oblasts that formed the core of his battle plan, after earlier losses in the war, and his control of Crimea is no longer an open question. “The strategy now being proposed,” the official suggested, in talks a few blocks from the White House but light-years away in attitude, “is to settle the war and settle the financial plan for Ukraine.”

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