Conflicts & War

Kyiv containing Russia’s Donbas offensive, dealing with internal corruption

Lviv, Ukraine, Feb 5 (EFE).- In the face of the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appealed for national unity and announced a new step to “clean out” internal enemies “which has added” to the foreign aggression, particularly against Ukrainian forces who are not on the front lines.

“For the 346 days of the war I’ve often said that the situation on the front is tough. And that the situation is becoming tougher. Now, once again it’s one of those moments. The (Russian) occupier is launching more and more forces to break our defenses,” Zelenskyy said in his regular daily message to his countrymen.

The Ukrainian leader acknowledged that the situation “is very difficult in Bakhmut, in Vuhledar, in the direction of Lyman,” but he assured his listeners that the courage and determination of the Ukrainian troops will cause Russia’s plan to fail.

In that regard, however, he also referred to internal enemies, who he said must be cleaned out of the country.

“I have signed the appropriate documents to take another step toward protecting and cleansing our country of those who are on the side of the aggressor,” he said.

Zelenskyy said that the Ukrainian Security Service had presented him with a report on those Ukrainians who also hold Russian citizenship, adding that he is ready to take measures against them.

“The enemies of the free world have no right to take advantage of it to satisfy their interests,” he said, adding that Kyiv will arrange with its allies in the West sanctions to punish Russians who are supporting the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Immediately, the president stripped Ukrainian citizenship from five former officials in the government of pro-Kremlin Ukrainian ex-President Viktor Yanukovich, who was deposed in 2014 and is currently a fugitive in Russia.

The announcement comes after Kyiv took several measures to combat corruption which have also hit the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and sparked rumors about the potential firing of current Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, according to the Ukrayinska Pravda newspaper.

The scandal was sparked after complaints were made regarding the purchasing and selling of food and supplies in poor condition for the Ukrainian army at prices significantly higher than the going market rate, a corruption scandal that cost Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov his job on Jan. 24.

Last Friday, Ukrainian authorities arrested five people linked to the corruption case and detained and raided the homes of other implicated persons, including influential Ukrainian millionaire Igor Kolominsky, who at one time was one of Zelenskyy’s main backers.

Kyiv has said it will pursue a firm “zero tolerance” policy against corruption, one of the essential things required of Ukraine by the European Union, which last year acknowledged Ukraine’s request to become an EU member candidate and open negotiations to that effect this year.

According to Ukrayinska Pravda, even if Reznikov were to be fired from his job at the helm of the Defense Ministry he would remain in the government, although probably he would be given the Justice portfolio.

The daily said that the new defense minister would probably be current Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov, whom Moscow accuses of masterminding the massive truck-bomb attack that seriously damaged the Crimea Bridge – a key Russian transport corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed in 2014 – last October.

Reznikov has said, regarding the reports in Ukrayinska Pravda, that he has not been contacted with regard to leaving his post as defense chief.

“All officials should be aware that they do not occupy a post for their entire lives. So, I’m ready for any development … I am not ashamed of anything I’ve done,” he told the daily.

Since Feb. 24, 2022, when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, key figures within the Ukrainian government have been ousted, including Kyrylo Timoshenko, Zelenskyy’s deputy chief of staff, as well as officials within the Attorney General’s Office, the Defense Ministry and several regional administrations.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army is tenaciously resisting Russian forces fighting in the northern part of Bakhmut, according to what the head of the private Wagner military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said on Sunday.

“In the northern neighborhoods of (Bakhmut), bitter combat for each street, each house, each floor in the buildings is under way,” Prigozhin posted on his Telegram account.

The Wagner chief said that as much as the Russian press may desire the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Bakhmut, “this is not happening either in the northern neighborhoods or in the south or in the east … (and) the Ukrainian army is not withdrawing anywhere … (and) is fighting to the end.”

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