Several senior Ukrainian officials resigned on Tuesday in the leadership’s biggest shakeup in the war with Russia yet, in what an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky called a response to public calls for “justice”.
Some, but not all, of the layoffs had been linked to corruption charges. Ukraine has a history of corrupt and shaky governance and is under international pressure to show it can be a reliable steward of billions of dollars in Western aid.
“There are already personnel decisions — some today, some tomorrow — regarding officials at various levels in ministries and other central government structures, as well as in the regions and law enforcement,” Zelensky said in a nighttime video address.
Zelensky aide Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted, “The president sees and hears society. And he responds directly to an important public demand – justice for all.”
Among those who resigned or were fired Tuesday morning were a deputy attorney general, a deputy defense minister and the deputy chief of staff in Zelensky’s own office.
The changes came two days after a deputy infrastructure minister was arrested and charged with siphoning $400,000 from contracts to buy generators, one of the first major corruption scandals to go public since the start of the war 11 months ago.
The defense ministry said deputy defense minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, responsible for supplying troops, had resigned Tuesday morning as a “dignified act” to preserve confidence, following media allegations of corruption that he and the ministry rejected. It followed a newspaper report that the ministry had overpaid for food for troops, which both the ministry and its supplier denied.
The prosecutor’s office announced that Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko had been removed from office without giving any reason. Symonenko was under fire in the Ukrainian media for vacationing in Spain.
Although Zelensky did not name any officials in his address, he announced a ban on public holidays abroad.
“Ignoring the war is a luxury no one can afford,” he said. “If they want to rest, they rest outside the civil service.”
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff in Zelenskiy’s office, announced his own resignation, also without explanation. He had helped direct the president’s 2019 election campaign and more recently had a role in overseeing regional policy.
The changes are a rare shake-up from an otherwise remarkably stable wartime leadership in Kyiv. Aside from cleaning up a spy agency in July, Zelensky largely stayed with his team, built around fellow political newbies the former television actor brought to power when he was elected in a landslide in 2019 and vowed to root out a corrupt political class.
Kiev says a wave of patriotic sentiment has tempered corruption since Russia’s invasion. But the head of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party promised Monday that officials would be arrested in a forthcoming anti-corruption campaign, which would enforce martial law if necessary.
‘Spring will be decisive’
The front lines in the war have been largely at a standstill for two months, despite heavy casualties on both sides.
Western countries pledged billions of dollars in military aid last week but have yet to respond to Kiev’s request for hundreds of heavy battle tanks it says are needed to break through Russian lines and recapture occupied territory.
Most defense experts say that the most suitable tanks available in sufficient numbers are German-made Leopards. But Berlin has so far refrained from sending them, or committing to having them sent by allies such as Poland.
Germany did not block the re-export of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the European Union’s top diplomat said on Monday.
Ukraine and Russia are widely believed to be planning spring offensives to break the deadlock in what has become a war of attrition in eastern and southern Ukraine.
“If the major Russian offensive planned for this time fails, it will mean the downfall of Russia and Putin,” Vadym Skibitsky, deputy chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence, said in an interview with news site Delfi.
Meanwhile, Russian forces bombed Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian troops have repelled 11 attacks, 10 of them in the Donetsk region, including in the areas of the city of Bakhmut and the village of Klishchiivka in the south, the Ukrainian army said on Tuesday.
Last week, Russia said it had captured Klishchiivka. Russian forces have been pushing for control of Bakhmut for months, but with limited success.
Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, razing cities to the ground, killing thousands of civilians. Kiev repelled an initial attack on the capital, retook territory in the second half of 2022 and says it wants to expel all Russian troops.
Moscow claimed to have annexed four partially occupied Ukrainian provinces last year, in addition to Crimea it captured from Ukraine in 2014.
Moscow this month gave the chief of its military general staff, Valery Gerasimov, direct command of the war in at least the third shake-up of the overall leadership since the invasion.
In his first interview since taking command of the battlefield, Gerasimov stuck to Moscow’s line that his “special military operation” is a form of defense against a threat from the West.
“Our country and its armed forces are today acting against the entire collective West,” he told the news website Argumenty i Fakty.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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