Chris Lange, FISM News
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired his state security chief and prosecutor general on Sunday as Russian forces continued pressing their offensive in eastern Ukraine. The leader cited hundreds of criminal proceedings into treasonous actions of personnel within Ukraine’s state security service as the impetus behind the shocking dismissals, according to an Associated Press report.
“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 in his nightly video address to the nation.
“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 continued.
One of the high-profile dismissals was that of Ivan Bakanov, Zelenskyy’s childhood friend and former business partner whom he had appointed as the head of the SBU. Bakanov has faced heavy scrutiny and criticism over several security breaches that have occurred since the war began.
The leader also ousted Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, who has played a key role in war crime investigations. She was replaced by her deputy, Oleksiy Symonenko.
Russia focuses on Black Sea coast
Moscow continued to press its offensive in Ukraine’s east, unleashing missile strikes on an infrastructure facility in Mykolaiv, according to the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych, as reported by the Associated Press.
Russia’s military said its objective is to block Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast stretching all the way to Ukraine’s border with Romania.
“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,” the news service stated.
Moscow’s Defense Ministry Spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that Russian missiles destroyed a depot for NATO-supplied anti-ship Harpoon missiles.
With Russia focused on its offensive in the east, Ukraine has sought to reclaim territory elsewhere. Russia’s military has responded by reinforcing its positions in the Kherson region near Crimea as well as portions of the Zaporizhzhia region in northern Ukraine that were seized in the early stages of the war.
FISM reported Sunday that Russian missile strikes on multiple Ukrainian cities resulted in at least 40 deaths since Thursday, according to Ukrainian officials. The southern city of Nikopol was hit by more than 50 Russian Grad rockets alone, the regional governor said.
Only a ‘matter of time’ before Belarus enters war
A Belarusian brigade commander-turned Ukrainian defender recently told Fox News that it is only a “matter of time” before he is forced to fight against his own countrymen as the war in Ukraine grinds into its fifth month.
“Aggression against Ukraine is now being carried out from the territory of Belarus,” said the commander, who goes by the alias “Igor” to protect his identity. “It’s a big regional threat right now, because [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko remains quasi-independent – primarily tactically advantageous for Russia. They want to use him for further escalation in the region,” he said.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Lukashenko, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, said his former Soviet state fully backed Moscow’s military aggression in Ukraine as part of his country’s longstanding commitment to a “union state” with Russia, according to Reuters. Lukashenko has allowed Russian troops to use Belarus territory in invading Ukraine.
“The issue of Belarus entering the war by ground troops is only a matter of time, and it could happen soon,” Igor warned.
Zelenskyy said the Belarusian leader’s statement amounted to a “signal” and said that Lukashenko’s actions should be watched carefully. The news service has also cited Ukrainian sources as confirming that Belarus could soon become directly involved in the conflict.
Igor said he believes that less than a quarter of Belarusians support Lukashenko and his allegiance to Putin and that a much lower number – roughly 3% – likely support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lukashenko came to power in 1994 and has accused the West of human rights abuses on multiple occasions.