Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has fired his country's spy chief and top prosecutor, citing hundreds of criminal proceedings into treason and collaboration by people in their departments, and other law enforcement agencies.
“In particular, more than 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the SBU (state security service) have remained in the occupied territory and work against our state,” Zelenskyy 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.
Zelenskyy dismissed Ivan Bakanov, a 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.
He also dismissed Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, and replaced her with her deputy Oleksiy Symonenko. Venediktova has helped lead war crime investigations.
The political moves in Kyiv come as Russia has ordered its forces in Ukraine to step up operations. Dozens of people were killed in Ukraine in recent days as Russian rockets and missiles pounded the country in the latest of a series of bombardments.
Russia's defence ministry said in a statement that Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had ordered military units to step up their operations to prevent strikes on eastern Ukraine and other territories controlled by Moscow, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, Russian missiles hit industrial facilities earlier Sunday at Mykolaiv, a key shipbuilding center in southern Ukraine. The local mayor said the missiles struck an industrial and infrastructure facility. Mykolaiv has faced regular Russian missile strikes in recent weeks as the Russians have sought to soften Ukrainian 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.