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Ukraine fires officials — updates

July 19, 2022

Ukraine's parliament has dismissed the domestic security chief and prosecutor general. UK military intelligence says Russia is 'struggling to sustain combat power.' DW rounds up the latest.

Head of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov and Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova hold a briefing
Ukraine's Head of Security Ivan Bakanov and Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova have been removed from their roles over perceived failingsImage: Photoshot/picture alliance

The parliament of Ukraine voted to dismiss the country's domestic security chief and prosecutor general on Tuesday.

The development comes just two days after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suspended them for failing over security issues related to finding Russian spies.

Ivan Bakanov was fired from his position as the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) by a comfortable majority, several lawmakers said on the Telegram messaging app. Zelenskyy also fired Volodymyr Horbenko as Bakanov's deputy

Iryna Venediktova was also removed by lawmakers from her role as prosecutor general.

SBU head Bakanov, a childhood friend of Zelenskyy, and Prosecutor General Venediktova were dismissed over numerous cases of collaboration by members of their agencies in Russian-occupied Ukraine.

In a statement published on Telegram just minutes before his removal was confirmed by parliament, Bakanov admitted "miscalculations" had been made during his tenure, but that he remained proud of his record.

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on July 19, 2022

Moscow 'struggling to sustain combat power' says UK

The UK Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday that Russia has struggled to sustain effective offensive combat power since the start of the invasion, adding that the problem was likely to become increasingly acute.

The ministry said Moscow was still "nominally" committing six separate armies to its Donbas offensive, but suggested that troop numbers had significantly decreased.

It also suggested that Ukrainian counterattacks would give Moscow's military planners a headache, given Russia's immediate policy objective of seizing all of the Donetsk region.

"As well as dealing with severe under-manning, Russian planners face a dilemma between deploying reserves to the Donbas or defending against Ukrainian counterattacks in the southwestern Kherson sector," the ministry said.

"While Russia may still make further territorial gains, their operational tempo and rate of advance is likely to be very slow without a significant operational pause for reorganization and refit."

The fight for survival in Kharkiv

More precision rockets would be ‘a game changer’ — Ukraine defense minister

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has called for the West to ramp up the supply of precision rocket systems.

The US has since June delivered eight M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine. The weapons system is able to hit targets with a high level of accuracy within 80 kilometer (50 mile) range.

"These systems allowed us to destroy approximately 30 command stations and ammunition storages," Reznikov told the Atlantic Council think tank.

However Reznikov said many more HIMARS weapons systems would be needed.

“For an effective counter-offensive, we would need at least 100, I think," he said.

"That could be a game-changer on the battlefield in that case," Reznikov added.

US president hosts Ukraine's first lady at the White House

First lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska has been welcomed at the White House by US President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden.

Zelenska is expected to make an address before Congress on Wednesday.

The US first lady made a visit to Ukraine in May.

"When I came back, one of the things that I said was, you cannot go into a war zone and come back and not feel the sorrow and the pain of the people," Jill Biden said at the beginning of their meeting.

She said a discussion had been held with her team about helping address mental health issues for mothers and children who have suffered atrocities.

First lady Jill Biden and President Joe Biden welcome the first lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska
Olena Zelenska, first lady of Ukraine is expected to make an address before Congress on WednesdayImage: UPI Photo/IMAGO

Russian strikes hit multiple targets in Ukraine 

Ukrainian officials have reported multiple Russian missile strikes across Ukraine. 

In the eastern city of Kramatorsk, at least one person was killed as an airstrike hit a five-story residential building, according to the regional governor. 

A 75-year-old man also died due to injuries as a result of shelling in the Kharkiv regionin the past 24 hours, said Governor Oleh Synegubov.

Meanwhile, footage showed severely damaged brick-built buildings in the Black Sea port city of Odesa, where officials said four people were injured and houses burned to the ground. 

Russia's Defense Ministry said strikes on the village of Bilenke in Odesa had a legitimate military goal and "destroyed depots of ammunition for weapons supplied by the United States and European countries."

Regional heads fired in Ukraine

In a raft of decrees, four Ukrainian regional heads — in Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Transcarpathia, Zhytomyr and Poltava — lost their jobs on Tuesday.

Zelenskyy has launched a major clear-out at higher levels, amid numerous cases of defections to Russia in occupied areas. 

Brussels plans joint defense fund

The European Commission has proposed a €500 million ($511 million) fund for joint defense purchases as member states replenish weapons stocks after supplying arms to Ukraine.

The fund aims to incentivize joint procurement among EU countries, and pave the way for long-term common spending on defense.

"This is urgently needed, national stocks have been run down," EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said.

EU nations "have drawn on their stocks of ammunition, light and heavy artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank defense systems, and even armored vehicles and tanks," Breton said.

"This has created a de facto vulnerability that now needs to be addressed urgently."

EU to adopt new sanctions on Russian firms and individuals

The European Union is set to add Russia's biggest bank Sberbank and the head of giant zinc and copper firm UMMC to its black list of individuals and companies.

The new list of 48 officials and nine entities to be blacklisted, has been prepared by the EU foreign affairs service. The measures are expected to be adopted on Wednesday.

It also includes leaders of the Night Wolves motorcycle club, actors, politicians, the deputy head of a Russian security service, family members of sanctioned oligarchs, and military personnel.

Sberbank would have its assets in the West frozen, completely preventing transactions. The bank is already excluded from the SWIFT bank messaging system, seriously hampering its ability to conduct business.

The head of zinc and copper giant UMMC, Andrei Kozitsyn, is being added because he is deemed to be "involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the [Russian] government."

Brussels planning for all scenarios on Nord Stream 1

The European Commission thinks it is likely that Russia will not allow the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to restart after its annual 10-day maintenance.

"We are working on every possible scenario and one of the scenarios that we have to factor in contingency planning is the possibility of flows not restarting," a Commission spokesman told a press briefing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, European Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn said Brussels was working on the assumption that Nord Stream 1 would not return to operation.

The comments come after Reuters reported that Russia's state-owned Gazprom had told customers in Europe it cannot guarantee gas supplies because of "extraordinary" circumstances. 

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline had been set to resume supplying gas on Thursday. Russia says a delay in the return of a gas turbine from maintenance in Canada has caused supply problems.

Medvedev says Moscow will set peace terms

The former president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, says Russia will prevail in Ukraine and set the terms for a future peace deal.

The former leader, who was once seen as a possible partner by the West, has become increasingly hawkish in his criticism of NATO allies since Russia's invasion.

"Russia will achieve all its goals. There will be peace — on our terms," Medvedev, who is now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, said in a post on Telegram.

As post-Soviet Russia's only one-term president, Medvedev promised to make Russia a freer, more democratic country, when he took office in 2008.

He later agreed to willingly renounce his claim to a second term and swap jobs with then Putin, who had temporarily left presidential office to be prime minister.

Zelenskyy orders security shake-up

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expanded a Monday shakeup of his security service, suspending 28 more staff members, a day after he dismissed two senior officials.

The move came after allegations that their agencies harbored "collaborators and traitors."

In his nightly video address on Monday, Zelenskyy said a "personnel audit" of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was underway because of "unsatisfactory results of work" at different levels.

Zelenskyy fired SBU chief Ivan Bakanov and Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova on Sunday, citing hundreds of criminal proceedings into treason and collaboration by people within their departments, as well as other law enforcement agencies.

Analysts say the moves appear designed to tighten Zelenskyy's control over the army and security agencies.

Bakanov is a childhood friend and former business partner of Zelenskyy, while Venediktova has won international praise for her drive to gather war-crimes evidence against Russian military commanders.

Zelenskyy fires 2 top officials over security breaches

Ukraine's First Lady in Washington

The US State Department says Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reaffirmed US support for Kyiv as Ukraine's First Lady, Olena Zelenska, paid a visit to Washington.

The department said Blinken and Zelenska had spoken about "the immense and growing human costs of Russia's full-scale invasion."

"The Secretary strongly condemned Russia's brutal attacks, which continue to wound and kill innocent civilians and destroy homes, hospitals, schools, and other civilian infrastructure — including a July 14 strike on Vinnytsya that killed three children.

Blinken reiterated that the US States would continue to provide assistance to help Ukraine, including for a mental health initiative led by Zelenska to help traumatized citizens.

The low-key nature of Zelenska's arrival indicates she is not traveling as an official representative of her husband, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and his government.

More on the war against Ukraine

The war in Ukraine is casting its shadow on Salzburg's famous Summer Festival after it became clear that organizers accepted money from companies close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The festival, one of the world's foremost cultural events, has been a topic of discussion over links to Moscow for weeks.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has prompted many sporting bodies to shut out Russian and Belarusian athletes from global events.

DW looks at the bans, and in which sports athletes from both countries may still compete.

At a conference in the Hague hosted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), representatives from 40 nations agreed to coordinate efforts to bring perpetrators of war crimes in Ukraine to justice.

The ICC's chief prosecutor has called for an "overarching strategy" to coordinate the process of holding individuals to account.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting Tehran in a sign of growing ties with Iran since his invasion of Ukraine.

However, the two nations remain competitors in the oil market

Russia is using Wagner Group mercenaries to bolster its troops in Ukraine, UK intelligence warns. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke out against individual EU states vetoing the bloc's foreign policy.

DW rounds up everything from Monday.

rc/aw, jsi (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)