Zelensky’s Purge — Suspension Of Top Officials Aims At Kremlin Infiltration
Volodymyr Zelensky’s suspension of two top security officials over treason allegations is a high-stakes five months into the war. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and the head of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov face allegations of high treason and cooperation with Russia.
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A “mass of malpractices against the foundations of national security of the state and ties, which have been recorded between the security services of Ukraine and the special services of the Russian Federation, raises very serious questions for the authorities in charge. Each of these issues receives the appropriate response," Zelensky said in his nightly address Sunday.
The Prosecutor General and the SBU chief have not been dismissed yet, but only suspended; criminal cases have been opened against them and an investigation is underway.
According to the head of the Presidential Office Andriy Smirnov, Venediktova and Bakanov were suspended to prevent their potential influence on the investigation, which aims to understand why endemic corruption has not been rooted out under their watch.
"Everyone has long been waiting for more specific and perhaps radical results from the heads of these two bodies to cleanse them of collaborators and traitors. However, in the sixth month of the war, we continue to identify, in fact, packs of such people in each of these bodies," Smirnov said.
To understand the situation, context is important: The Ukrainian political elite and its appointed civil servants have been dependent on the Kremlin for many years, from presidents and heads of village administrations, to police captains and ministers of energy.
Over the years, as a result of revolutions and reforms within Ukrainian society, many of those loyal to Moscow have either resigned or have been removed by the new authorities. Still, the reality is that Ukraine still has too many pro-Russian officials and collaborators to cleanse. And if one could turn a blind eye to or be more patient about corruption during peacetime, it is unacceptable during war. Zelensky understands this well: to defeat the invaders, Ukraine must change from within.
Rift Brewing In Russian Army Over Wagner Mercenaries
Wagner Group advertisement in Russia
The Wagner military mercenary outfit, owned by the restaurant businessman and Putin confidante Yevgeny Prigozhin, wasn’t initially supposed to join the war against Ukraine, writes the Russian online media Meduza in a new investigation.
Mercenaries from Wagner appeared at the front only at the end of March, in what is described as a "wild, fantastic" recruitment drive aimed at replenishing the troops that was organized together with the Russian military. The recruits ended up including men with criminal records, insufficient knowledge of military affairs and others of a so-called blacklist.
As a result, Wagner suffered huge losses during the recent capture of Lysychansk and other towns in Donbas. Ukrainian and British news agencies agree that all this is already affecting the morale of the mercenaries and may very soon lead to a split in the Russian army.
Burying Four-Year-Old Liza As Shelling Continues In Vinnytsia
Funeral ceremony for Vinnytsia missile attack victim
It will remain one of the most heart-wrenching images of the Russia-Ukraine conflict: the photos of family members mourning over the open casket of four-year-old Liza, dressed in white and wearing a floral crown, yesterday in Vinnytsia.
The story of Liza Dmitrieva made international headlines last Thursday: The little girl, who had Down’s syndrome, was killed by a Russian rocket strike in Vinnytsia while she was pushed in a stroller through a crowd, in an attack that killed at least 23.
Liza’s funeral was held as Russian rockets continued to fall on in and around Vinnytsia.
Russia Prepares For Next Stage Of War: Sloviansk
Military equipment captured from Ukraine on display in Mariupol
Russia is preparing for the next stage of its war in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian and British military officials. The Russian military seems to be regrouping units for an offensive towards the city of Sloviansk, a symbolic city still in control of the Ukrainian army in the region of Donetsk.
As shelling in Donetsk is ongoing, the Ukrainian military stated on Monday that Russia has not been able to capture more territory. According to the General Staff, the Russians continued to shell areas along the border of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and were persisting with a ground assault to the east of the city of Lysychansk, which they took last month. However, Ukrainian forces still defended their territory in the eastern Donetsk region and the General Staff said “our defenders successfully repulsed the assaults in the areas close to Siversk.”
Social media videos published early on Monday showed two warehouses struck in Russian-occupied Kherson. Serhii Khlan, an adviser to the head of the Kherson civil-military administration, reported that detonations continued for several hours. This comes after Ukrainian forces had previously targeted a large warehouse in Nova Kakhovka containing Russian munitions. The Ukrainian military is able to target Russian supply lines due to the new rocket systems provided by the Western allies.
Meanwhile, six people were killed in Russian shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Toretsk in the Donbas region, Ukraine's state emergency service reported on Monday. "A building was destroyed by a shell in Toretsk. Rescuers recovered five bodies. Three people were pulled out of the rubble, one of whom died in the hospital," according to a statement posted on the Facebook page accompanied by photos of the rubble.
Von Der Leyen Looks For Gas Deal In Azerbaijan
\u201cGood meeting with @azpresident on energy and the state of \ud83c\uddea\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\uddff relations.\n \nLet's strengthen our economic relationship and bring our people closer together.\n \nConnectivity will be crucial here.\n \n\ud83c\uddea\ud83c\uddfa wants to work with \ud83c\udde6\ud83c\uddff and build connections with Central Asia and beyond.\u201d— Ursula von der Leyen (@Ursula von der Leyen) 1658146697
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, along with Kadri Simson, EU commissioner for energy, will visit Baku on Monday to try to secure gas supplies to Europe from Azerbaijan. A deal is expected to be made to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian energy resources as well as reducing the expected gas shortage next winter.
The two parties will discuss issues of strategic partnership between the EU and Azerbaijan in the field of energy in order to increase its role in diversifying natural glass supplies to European countries.
Ukrainian Grain Is An Issue Of “Life And Death”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expects a deal on Ukrainian grain to be reached this week ahead of a the EU Foreign Ministers Council in Brussels. He told reporters that resolving this crisis is an issue of “life and death” as thousands are starving due to the blockade of supplies.
Foreign ministers will discuss the tightening of the series of sanctions against Russia, while trying to find a way to resolve Moscow’s blockade of grain and boost military aid to Ukraine, with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba addressing the council.
John Harding, UK Man Captured By Russian Forces, Asks Boris Johnson For Help
British citizen John Harding
John Harding, a 50-year-old British citizen who was reportedly captured by Russian forces in May while fighting alongside the Azov Regiment (a Ukrainian volunteer paramilitary militia) has appeared in a video, asking his country’s prime minister to use his influence to free him.
In the video clip, shared through the Telegram messaging app, Harding says, “I would say to Boris Johnson, if you can help, if you can influence President Zelensky, if you can influence the president of the Donetsk People’s Republic, or if you can influence President Putin, then please do.”
The news comes just days after the death of Paul Urey, a British aid worker detained by Russian separatists in Ukraine.
Ex- Russian TV Journalist Detained
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Russian police detained and later released journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who in March interrupted a live television broadcast to denounce the military action in Ukraine.
Her detention on Sunday came a few days after Ovsyannikova demonstrated alone near the Kremlin holding a placard criticizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and denouncing Vladimir Putin as a “killer”.
Ovsyannikova became famous in March when she staged her live TV protest. Pictures of her interrupting the broadcast went around the world. In the months following her March protest, Ovsyannikova wrote for the German newspaper Die Welt.
H&M To Leave Russia
H&M in Moscow
Clothing chain H&M, which had suspended their sales in Russia in March, announced on Monday that it will gradually withdraw completely from the country due to the war in Ukraine.
As part of its exit from the Russian market, H&M plans to temporarily reopen its stores, which were closed a few days after the invasion of Ukraine began, to sell its remaining inventory. According to the Swedish group, this withdrawal is expected to cost an estimated $189 million.
Report Reveals Russians’ Surprising Top Worry
A woman walks by empty shelves in a supermarket in Moscow
A recent report by the Public Relations Development Agency (CROS) highlights Russians’ concerns over the first three months of war with Ukraine. And topping that list isn’t the fear of military escalation, but the question of what citizens will be able to put on their plate on a daily basis.
According to the report, not seeing or no longer being able to afford the brands and types of food that they are used to cooking with and eating is more of a concern than any guns or missiles in Ukraine. Read more from Moscow daily Kommersant, in English via Worldcrunch.
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