Ukrainian Zelenskyy dismisses security chief and prosecutor | International

By HANNA ARHIROVA and CARA ANNA – Associated Press

VINNYTSIA, Ukraine (AP) — As Russian troops continued their offensive in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired his state security chief and attorney general on Sunday, citing hundreds of lawsuits criminal charges for treason and collaboration by people within their departments and other law enforcement agencies. agencies.

“In particular, more than 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the SBU (state security service) remained in the occupied territory and are working against our state,” Zelenskyy said.

“Such a range of crimes against the foundations of national security of the state and the recorded links between Ukrainian security forces and Russian special services raise very serious questions about their respective leaders,” he said in a statement. his nightly video address to the nation.

Zelenskyy fired Ivan Bakanov, a childhood friend and former business partner whom he had appointed as head of the SBU. Bakanov had come under increasing criticism over security breaches since the start of the war; Politico last month quoted several unidentified Ukrainian and Western sources as saying Zelenskyy was looking to replace him.

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He also sacked Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and replaced her with his deputy Oleksiy Symonenko. Venediktova helped conduct war crimes investigations.

Meanwhile, Russian missiles hit industrial facilities earlier on Sunday in Mykolaiv, a key center for shipbuilding in southern Ukraine. Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said the missiles hit an industrial and infrastructure facility. Mykolaiv has faced regular Russian missile strikes in recent weeks as the Russians sought to soften Ukrainian defenses.

The Russian army has set itself the goal of cutting off the entire Ukrainian coast from the Black Sea to the Romanian border. If successful, such an effort would deal a crushing blow to Ukraine’s economy and trade and allow Moscow to secure a land bridge to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, home to a Russian military base.

Early in the campaign, Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attempts to capture Mykolaiv, which lies near the Black Sea coast between Russian-occupied Crimea and the main Ukrainian port of Odessa. Since then, Russian troops have halted their attempts to advance into the city but have continued to hit both Mykolaiv and Odessa with regular missile strikes.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday that Russian missiles destroyed a depot of Harpoon anti-ship missiles delivered to Ukraine by NATO allies, a claim which could not be independently confirmed.

The Russians, fearing a Ukrainian counter-offensive, also sought to reinforce their positions in the Kherson region near Crimea and in part of the northern Zaporizhzhia region which they seized at the start of the war.

“Given pressures on Russian manpower, the strengthening of the south as the fight for Donbass continues indicates the seriousness with which Russian commanders view the threat,” the British Ministry of Defense said on Sunday.

For now, the Russian military has been focused on trying to take control of the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, the Donbass, where the most capable and well-equipped Ukrainian forces are located.

Ukraine says its forces still retain control of two small villages in the Luhansk region, one of the two provinces that make up the Donbass, and are repelling Russian attempts to advance deeper into the second, the Donetsk region. .

The General Staff of the Ukrainian army said on Sunday that Ukrainian troops had thwarted Russian attempts to advance towards Sloviansk, the main Ukrainian stronghold in Donetsk, and attacks elsewhere in the region.

Yet Russian officials are urging their troops to produce even more territorial gains. During a visit to the front lines on Saturday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave the order “to further intensify the actions of units in all operational areas”.

The Russian military said it hit Ukrainian troops and artillery positions in Donbass in the latest round of strikes, including a US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher. The Russian claims could not be independently verified.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, has responded to statements by Ukrainian officials that Kyiv could strike the bridge connecting Crimea with Russia, warning that it would have devastating consequences for Ukraine’s leadership.

“They will face Doomsday momentarily,” Medvedev said on Sunday. “It would be very difficult for them to hide.”

Medvedev, once touted by the West as more liberal than Putin, said Russia would continue its offensive until it achieved its stated goal of “denazifying” and “demilitarizing” Ukraine. He predicted that the fighting would “undoubtedly lead to the collapse of the existing regime” in Kyiv.

Zelenskyy condemned Medvedev’s doomsday comment as “bullying” and said it was Russia that would eventually face a “Judgement Day”.

“And not figuratively, not as strong, but literally,” he said on Sunday.

While focusing on Donbass, the Russians hit areas across the country with missile strikes.

In central Ukraine, relatives and friends attended the funeral of Liza Dmytrieva, a 4-year-old girl killed Thursday in a Russian missile strike, on Sunday. The young girl with Down syndrome was on her way to see a speech therapist with her mother when the missiles hit the town of Vinnytsia. At least 24 people were killed, including Liza and two boys, aged 7 and 8. More than 200 others were injured, including Liza’s mother, who remains in an intensive care unit.

“I didn’t know Liza, but no one can go through this calmly,” said priest Vitalii Holoskevych, bursting into tears as Liza’s body lay in a coffin with flowers and teddy bears in the cathedral of the 18th century Transfiguration in Vinnytsia.

“We know evil cannot win,” he added.

In the Kharkiv region, at least three civilians were killed and three others were injured in a pre-dawn Russian strike on Saturday on the town of Chuhuiv, just 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Russian border, said announced the police.

A resident of the building that was hit said she was lucky to have survived.

“I was going to run and hide in the bathroom. I didn’t survive and that’s what saved me,” Valentina Bushuyeva said. Pointing to her destroyed apartment, she said: “There is the bathroom—explosion.Kitchen—half a room.And I survived because I stayed put.

Anna reported from Pokrovsk, Ukraine.

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