KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — As Russia continued its relentless bombardment across the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy broadened his security service reshuffle on Monday by suspending 28 other officials, a day after firing two senior officials for allegations that their agencies housed “collaborators and traitors”.
In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said a “personnel audit” of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) was underway and the decision to fire all 28 officials was pending.
“Different levels, different areas of interest. But the reasons are similar – unsatisfactory work results,” Zelenskyy said.
On Sunday, he sacked SBU chief Ivan Bakanov and prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova. Zelenskyy, citing hundreds of criminal prosecutions for treason and collaboration by individuals within their departments and other law enforcement agencies.
“Six months into the war, we continue to find loads of these people in each of these agencies,” said Andriy Smirnov, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office.
Analysts said the moves were aimed at tightening Zelensky’s control over the military and security agencies, which were headed by appointees before the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24.
“In the conditions of a war, Zelensky needs leaders who can multi-task, resist Russia’s intrigues inside the country to create a fifth column, be in contact and in coordination with international experts, to do their real work effectively,” Volodymyr Fesenko, policy analyst at the Penta Center think tank, told The Associated Press.
Bakanov is a childhood friend and former business partner of Zelenskyy, who appointed him head of the SBU. Bakanov had come under increasing criticism over security breaches since the start of the war.
Venediktova has received international praise for her drive to gather evidence of war crimes against Russian military commanders and officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, relating to the destruction of Ukrainian cities and the killing of civilians.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price, speaking to reporters in Washington, said when asked about the personnel changes that the two governments were in close contact.
“The point is that in all of our relationships, and including this relationship, we are not investing in personalities. We are investing in institutions and, of course, President Zelenskyy has explained his rationale for making these personnel changes” , Price said.
He said Washington would continue to work with Kyiv on war crimes investigations and information sharing. Intelligence, he said, is “an important part of the assistance we provide to our Ukrainian partners with the aim of helping them defend themselves.”
Zelensky appointed the first deputy head of the SBU, Vasyl Maliuk, as acting head. Maliuk, 39, is known for his efforts to fight corruption within security agencies; his appointment was seen as part of Zelenskyy’s efforts to get rid of pro-Russian SBU personnel.
Fesenko said dissatisfaction with Bakanov and Venediktova had been simmering for some time and it was possible that Ukraine’s western partners had pointed out the underperformance of the SBU and the prosecutor general’s office to Zelenskyy.
Meanwhile, Russia continued its missile and bombing attacks, which Ukrainian officials said were designed to intimidate the civilian population and spread panic.
The commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, however, said his troops had “stabilized the situation” at the front, largely thanks to Western deliveries of technically advanced rocket systems.
“It’s complex, tense, but completely controllable,” Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny wrote on Telegram after a phone call with US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley.
“An important factor contributing to the holding of our defensive lines and positions is the timely arrival of the M142 HIMARS, which carries out targeted strikes against enemy command posts, ammunition and fuel depots,” Zaluzhnyy said, referring recently delivered lightweight multiple rocket launchers from the United States
Ukrainian emergency services said at least six people were killed on Monday by Russian shelling targeting the town of Toretsk in Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine. Toretsk was briefly taken during the 2014 Russian invasion, but Ukrainian forces eventually recaptured the city.
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian shelling there was incessant. Four Russian strikes were carried out on the town of Kramatorsk, he said, and he urged civilians to evacuate.
“We see that the Russians want to sow fear and panic,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. “The front line is moving, so civilians have to leave the area and evacuate.”
Nearly 1,000 civilians were evacuated to Ukraine on Monday from Russian-held territories in the northern Kharkiv region, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said. About a third of the region remains in Russian hands after troops from Moscow overran it in April.
In Kyiv on Monday, a funeral was held at the golden-domed St. Michael’s Monastery for a Ukrainian soldier killed when his car hit a landmine near Izium last week. His family could not bury him in their hometown in eastern Ukraine as it remains under Russian occupation.
The cathedral was packed with mourners paying their last respects to Fanat, as the soldier was known. Each time the priest stopped, the voice of the soldier’s mother echoed through the church.
“We will love you forever and ever. We will miss you so much!” she cried, stroking the closed coffin. “Why do we need to live in this accursed war? »
In other developments Monday:
– Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu inspected troops involved in fighting in Ukraine and ordered the military to prioritize the destruction of Ukrainian long-range missiles and artillery, a statement said of the ministry. It was not immediately clear when or where the inspection took place.
– Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says ‘gradually there has been a bit more progress’ on a comprehensive deal proposed by the UN that would ship millions of tonnes of Ukrainian cereals from the Black Sea, as well as Russian cereals and fertilizers. to ship to global markets without restrictions. Spokesman Farhan Haq said the UN chief spoke to Zelenskyy about the negotiations. A new round of talks could take place in Turkey later this week, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said. Some 22 million tons of cereals are blocked in Ukraine because of the war.
— Ukraine claims that some Russian forces have been using topographic maps since 1969 when fighting in the east of the country. Ukraine’s army general staff, citing the country’s internal security service, said the maps were used by Russian troops fighting around Kharkiv but no buildings had been constructed since the early 1990s. 1970.
– Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska met Secretary of State Antony Blinken as she began a series of high-profile appearances in Washington. She is due to meet her American counterpart, Jill Biden, on Tuesday. Price said Blinken assured Zelenska of the United States’ commitment to Ukraine and praised her for her work with civilians dealing with trauma and other damage from war.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine