VINNYTSIA, Ukraine — As Russia’s military pressed its efforts to expand into Ukraine’s east, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired the head of the country’s security service and its prosecutor general on Sunday, citing hundreds of criminal proceedings into treason and collaboration by people within their departments.
“In particular, more than 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the SBU have remained in the occupied territory and work against our state,” Zelensky said.
“Such an array of crimes against the foundations of the state’s national security, and the links recorded between Ukrainian security forces and Russian special services raise very serious questions about their respective leaders,’’ he said in his nightly video address to the nation.
He fired Iryna Venediktova as Prosecutor General and replaced her, Oleksiy Simonenko.
He also dismissed Ivan Bakanov, a childhood friend and former business partner who headed Ukraine’s security service, the SBU. Bakanov has been under increasing criticism for his security breach. Politico reported last month that several Western and Ukrainian sources claimed Zelensky was seeking to replace Bakanov.
Russian missiles also struck an industrial facility in Mykolaiv earlier this Sunday. This strategic Ukrainian city is one of the most important. Oleksandr Senkovych stated that the missiles hit an infrastructure and manufacturing facility. Mykolaiv, a major shipbuilding centre along the Southern Bug River, has been the target of Russian missile attacks in recent weeks. The Russians are trying to weaken Ukraine’s defenses.
The Russian military has declared a goal to cut off Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast all the way to the Romanian border. If successful, such an effort would deal a crushing blow to the Ukrainian economy and trade, and allow Moscow to secure a land bridge to Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, which hosts a Russian military base.
Ukrainian forces held off Russian attempts at capturing Mykolaiv in early stages of the campaign. This city is situated near Russia’s occupied Crimea and Odesa. Russian troops, however, have stopped their advance on the city and have been continuing to bomb Odesa and Mykolaiv regularly with regular missile attacks.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that Russian missiles destroyed a depot for anti-ship Harpoon missiles delivered to Ukraine by NATO allies, a claim that couldn’t be independently confirmed.
Fearing an attack by Ukraine, the Russians sought reinforcements in their positions in Kherson, near Crimea, and the part of northern Zaporizhzhia, which they had seized during the first stage of war.
Sunday was declared by the British Defense Ministry that Russia has moved troops and equipment to Zaporizhzhia from Kherson and Mariupol. Security measures are being taken around Melitopol.
“Given the pressures on Russian manpower, the reinforcement of the south whilst the fight for the Donbas continues indicates the seriousness with which Russian commanders view the threat,” it said.
For now, the Russian military has focused on trying to take control of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas, where the most capable and well-equipped Ukrainian forces are located.
Ukraine claims its forces hold two villages in Luhansk, one of the Donbas provinces, still under their control and resisting Russian advances into the Donetsk.
The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said Sunday that Ukrainian troops thwarted Russian attempts to advance toward Sloviansk, the key Ukrainian stronghold in Donetsk, and attacks elsewhere in the region.
Russian officials urge their troops to make more territorial gains. During a visit to the front lines Saturday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu issued an order “to further intensify the actions of units in all operational areas.”
According to the Russian military, it claimed that it had struck Ukrainian soldiers and artillery posts in Donbas during its latest round of strikes. This included a U.S-supplied HIMARS multiple missile launcher. The Russian claims couldn’t be independently verified.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, responded to Ukrainian officials’ statements that Kyiv may strike the bridge linking Crimea and Russia, warning that would trigger devastating consequences for the Ukrainian leadership.
“They will momentarily face Doomsday,” Medvedev said Sunday. “It would be very hard for them to hide.”
Medvedev, who once was touted by the West as more liberal compared to Putin, said Russia will press its action in Ukraine until fulfilling its stated goal of “denazifying” and “demilitarizing” the country. He predicted the fighting will “undoubtedly lead to the collapse of the existing regime” in Kyiv.
The Russians are not only focusing their attention on Donbass, but they have also hit other areas with missile strikes.
Relatives and friends of Liza Dmytrieva were present at the central Ukrainian funeral on Sunday. Liza Dmytrieva was a four-year-old girl that died in Thursday’s Russian missile strike. When the missiles hit Vinnytsia, the girl with Down syndrome was on her way to visit a speech therapist. Liza along with two other boys aged 7 and 8 were among those killed. More than 200 others were wounded, including Liza’s mother, who remains in an intensive care unit.
“I didn’t know Liza, but no person can go through this with calm,” priest Vitalii Holoskevych said, bursting into tears as Liza’s body lay in a coffin with flowers and teddy bears in the 18th-century Transfiguration Cathedral in Vinnytsia.
‘’We know that evil cannot win,’ he added.
Police said that at least three people were killed in the Kharkiv area and another three were hurt Saturday during a Russian attack on Chuhuiv. It is located 120 km (75 miles) away from the Russian border.
A resident in the flat that was damaged said she was fortunate to be alive.
“I was going to run and hide in the bathroom. I didn’t make it and that’s what saved me,” said Valentina Bushuyeva. Pointing to her destroyed apartment, she said: “There’s the bathroom — explosion. Kitchen — half a room. And I survived because I stayed put.”
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