Tags: Russia | Ukraine | War | Developments

Amid Russia Shelling, Zelenskyy Seeks to Strengthen Ranks

Amid Russia Shelling, Zelenskyy Seeks to Strengthen Ranks

Monday, 18 July 2022 09:01 AM EDT

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — With Russian shelling across the country showing no signs of easing, Ukraine's leaders on Monday were looking to strengthen their own ranks after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy removed from office some of his most prominent officials because of alleged "poor performance" over clearing their agencies of “collaborators and traitors.”

Internal investigations and checks will be launched following the replacement of the head of Ukraine’s Security Service, or SBU, Ivan Bakanov, and Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, said Andriy Smirnov, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office. Acting heads of the two agencies have been appointed in the meantime. officials said.

“Six months into the war, we continue to uncover loads of these people in each of these agencies," said Andriy Smirnov, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office.

Analysts said the move is designed to strengthen Zelenskyy's control over the army and the security agencies that have been led by people appointed before the war. Zelenskyy “needs an effective Prosecutor (General’s) office, and (an effective) SBU" agency, Volodymyr Fesenko, political analyst with the Penta Center think tank, told The Associated Press.

“In the conditions of a war, Zelenskyy needs leaders that are capable of tackling several tasks at the same time -- to resist Russia’s intrigues within the country to create a fifth column, to be in contact and coordination with international experts, to do their actual job effectively,” Fesenko said.

Bakanov and Venediktova both have held key positions amid Ukraine's efforts to defend itself from the Russian invasion and hold the Russian attackers accountable for the crimes against civilians during the war, which started on Feb. 24.

Bakanov is Zelenskyy's childhood friend and former business partner whom he had appointed to head the SBU. Bakanov had come under growing criticism over security breaches since the war began and reports have emerged in the past few months that Zelenskyy was looking to replace him.

Venediktova, the first woman to serve as Ukraine’s prosecutor general, has won international praise for her relentless drive to gather evidence against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian officials and military commanders over the destruction of Ukrainian cities and the killing of civilians.

The 43-year-old former law professor has opened thousands of criminal investigations and identified hundreds of suspects while in office, interviewing victims while also coordinating her efforts with foreign donors and officials. When she took office in 2020, Venediktova started as a reformer set to curb inefficiency and corruption in her office.

After appointing the acting chief prosecutor on Sunday, Zelenskyy on Monday signed a decree naming first deputy head of the SBU, Vasyl Maliuk, as the acting head of the agency. Maluik, 39, is known for his efforts to fight corruption in the security agencies and his appointment is seen as part of Zelenskyy's efforts to get rid of pro-Russian staffers within the SBU.

“Maliuk was fighting corruption within the SBU, so (he) has compromising materials on many staff members and can control the personnel, many of whom are looking in the direction of Russia,” political analyst Vadym Karasiov, head of the Global Strategies Institute, told the AP.

Fesenko, the political analyst, added that discontent with the two officials has been brewing for a while and that it was possible that Ukraine’s Western partners pointed out the underperformance of the SBU and the prosecutor general's office to Zelenskyy.

Meanwhile, Russia pressed forward with its attacks, which Ukrainian officials said were designed to intimidate the civilian population and sow panic among them.

Ukraine's presidential office said Monday that Russian shelling over the past day killed at least four civilians and wounded 13 more. Cities and villages in seven Ukrainian regions have suffered from the attacks, the update said.

The highest number of civilian casualties was reported in the eastern Donetsk region, where the most intense fighting is focused at the moment -- two people were killed there and 10 others were wounded.

Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said that the shelling of the region is incessant. Four strikes have been carried out on the city of Kramatorsk, he said, urging civilians to evacuate from the area.

“We’re seeing that the Russians want to sow fear and panic among the civilians -- the shelling continues day and night,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. “The front line is moving, so civilians must leave the region and evacuate.”

The southern city of Mykolaiv was shelled on Monday morning, while two people were killed and two others were wounded in the shelling of residential buildings in In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

“The shelling either intensifies, or dies down, but the Russian army doesn’t stop the fire on the Kharkiv region and keeps civilians in constant tension,” Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Syniehubov told Ukrainian TV.

Also Monday, a funeral was held at a monastery in Kyiv for a Ukrainian solider who was killed when his car hit a land mine near Izium on July 14, but whose family couldn't bury him in their hometown in eastern Ukraine because it remains under Russian occupation. St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery was packed with grievers paying their last respects to “Fanat," as the soldier born in 1994 was known. Any time the priest paused in his service, the voice of the soldier's mother echoed in the church.

’We will love you forever and ever. We will miss you so much," she cried, caressing the closed coffin. ‘Why do we need to live in this cursed war?’

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

© Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

With Russian shelling across the country showing no signs of easing, Ukraine's leaders on Monday were looking to strengthen their own ranks after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy removed from office some of his most prominent officials because of alleged "poor performance"...
Monday, 18 July 2022 09:01 AM
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