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Ukraine announces changes at top of military

FILE PHOTO: Celebration ceremony for the Independence Day of Ukraine in Kyiv

KYIV (Reuters) - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy replaced Ukraine's army chief on Thursday at a time when Russian forces have been gaining the upper hand nearly two years into their war.

The shakeup follows months of speculation about a rift between Zelenskiy and army chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi.

The president named Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the head of ground forces, as the new Armed Forces chief.

Following are quotes and reactions:

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKIY:

"We discussed what renewal the Armed Forces of Ukraine need. We also discussed who could be in the renewed leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The time for this renewal is now."

UKRAINIAN GENERAL VALERIY ZALUZHNYI:

"The tasks of 2022 are different from the tasks of 2024. Therefore, everyone must change and adapt to new realities as well. To win together too."

U.s. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR JAKE SULLIVAN:

"An elected leader has to make his choices about who occupies the upper rungs of the military leadership. All I can say is that from the United States’ perspective. We're going to continue to support both the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian military."

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG:

"This is of course, a Ukrainian decision... It's not for NATO to have any opinion about that. But I welcome the very clear statement from Foreign Minister Kuleba that any changes will not affect Ukraine's relationship with partners and with NATO. So we will continue to support - that's what matters - and we will continue to do so."

RESPONSES FROM UKRAINIANS ON STREETS OF KYIV:

"This is not the time to fire the army chief. This is a very odd decision. I think that we know our enemy and it is not Zaluzhnyi." - Svitlana Kalinina, consultant

"From friends and relatives in the military, I heard that Zaluzhniyi has their respect. I have not heard much about Syrskyi, so we will have to see." - Viktoria Peskova, IT specialist

"The president probably has a better view of the situation but I want to say that horses should not be changed mid-stream." - Oleksandr Kalinichev, doctor

(Reporting by Anastasiia Malenko in Kyiv and compiled by London editing desk)